DEAR ABBY: When you advised "Brokenhearted Mom in Virginia," whose daughter is being lured by an Internet predator, to call the police and get them involved, you gave good advice. My 13-year-old daughter was in the same situation.
The 37-year-old man who "loved" my daughter and "wanted to marry her and have children with her" was a pedophile who had already molested a 10-year-old girl. He had told my daughter he was 15. I went straight to the police with as much information as I could -- name, address, phone number.
The detectives have been wonderful. My daughter and I are now in counseling to repair the damage this man did to our relationship. I am grateful beyond words for all the support I have been given, and thank God every day that my daughter is still with me.
By the way, she didn't meet this guy in a chat room, but playing a game on the Internet. -- THANKFUL MOM
DEAR THANKFUL: I'm relieved your story has a happy ending. Since printing that letter, I have been informed that parents should also report this crime to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children by visiting the Web site at www.missingkids.com and filing a report on the CyberTip line.
Parents must be vigilant in monitoring their children's Internet usage. To do otherwise is to invite a stranger into your home with unmonitored access to your children. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: My 16-year-old stepdaughter, "Ginger," met a man on the Internet. At first he claimed to be 17 -- then 24. He turned out to be 56. Ginger became pregnant at 17. She claimed her baby was a local boy's child. We found out on the eve of her moving out to live with the predator that our grandchild was really his.
In an effort to find out if he was sincere or a stalker, I created a fake screen name, set myself up as an attractive young girl (complete with a photo from a royalty-free photo site), and developed a profile that would be attractive to him based on my daughter's likes and dislikes. He contacted me immediately, and within 10 minutes he solicited me for intimate phone conversation. Our chats always ended with him urging me to call him. I recorded these sessions for future use against him, then reported the pervert to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (www.ncmec.org).
This incident has been devastating for Ginger. She suffers from it daily. She has missed a lot of fun in her high school days because of having a child. She is now in counseling and on a long road to becoming the bright, cheerful person she was before she was consumed by this. -- 'GINGER'S' MOM
DEAR MOM: Your story is chilling. Unfortunately, I have received similar letters from distraught parents telling this same story and wondering how to handle a situation that is out of control. No one wants to be told he or she is being used or taken advantage of, and that includes teenagers whose self-esteem may be fragile to begin with. But it is up to the parents to take control when necessary.
Stay tuned. There will be more on this tomorrow -- when I print a letter that will curl your hair.
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