That's a horrible question to ask. There is a very alarming report on nbcsandiego.com, about a dad who regularly checked on his kids in the middle of the night, and one night at 2 a.m., upon checking his 12-year-old daughter's room, saw that she was gone. The window was open.
He fled down the street where he saw her just about to get into an SUV, which turned out to be driven by a 27-year-old man the girl had met online a month prior. The predator's name is Scott Stilwell, and he insisted to dad Tim LeBlanc that he was 16.
A fight ensued and LeBlanc knocked him out and held him until authorities arrived.
What can parents do?
- Well, it's fair to wonder why the girl didn't consider what her dad would do (such as go through the roof with anger) upon discovering her absence-unless she had no idea he checked on her every night. So the first thing is to make sure your kids know that you do check up on them.
- Lay down the rules about what's off-limits online.
- Let your kids know that they will not be shamed or judged if they report any kind of weird interactions online, though predators will typically behave properly to lure a child into meeting them, as did Stilwell when he promised the girl gifts.
- Parental control/monitoring software will help parents keep their kids safe. The smartphone apps for this are best.
- Use spyware to keep tabs on your kids (yes, this is legal from parent to child). Spyware will track the user's online activities and is quite thorough, though it may be overkill if your child is a normal, typical child.
- Before buying your child a computer or smartphone, lay out the big rule: You get to periodically check the device; you will meet new online friends; you will even have your child's passwords. If your child already has a computer or phone, well, you'll have to put some metal in your spine and mandate these stiffer rules.
- Research shows that girls are more likely to traipse off with a charming predator when the relationship with their father is weak. The predator, in a way, comes off as a father figure. Though you may be checking on your kids in the middle of the night, make sure that your waking relationship with them is a healthy one.