Chat with horny strangers online for free

Last week, I contacted three students, ages 14 to 17, and asked them about their experiences chatting online.

What they thought, and what they reported their friends thought, was pretty savvy.

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The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing in my home town yesterday: "Chatting On-Line: A Dangerous Proposition for Children." Six witnesses came to Kalamazoo, Michigan and described the perils of on-line chat to Rep. Personally, I like the idea of us, though some disagree.

Of them, 19% had "received an unwanted sexual solicitation" (imprecisely defined) but only 3% had been solicited with "attempts or requests for offline contact" or actual offline contact.

And precisely 0 of the 1,501 children said they had been sexually contacted or assaulted due to online solicitations.

The preferred pickup method for child molesters nowadays is the internet: chat, instant-messaging, and email. " and "your parents were in an accident, I'll drive you to the hospital" -- those are yesterday's news.

Kids growing up now need to be aware of different dangers, ones involving formation of long-term relationships, questions about online identity, and trust.

It sounds like law enforcement, especially at the state and local level, is still coming up to speed on this issue. Curtin, for AOL, emphasized that ISPs were already taking steps, and suggested patience to allow them to develop an industry standard. This is a very interesting problem, but precisely what suggestions would you have for us as policymakers? I'm not sure why existing explanations (here's one) are insufficient; why not just link?

The most surprising and welcome news of the afternoon was that, despite the alarmist title, there was The hearing launched with Congressman Upton touting his internet record -- notably the domain, now us.

The witnesses were Katie Tarbox, who in 1995, at age 13, had been inadequately briefed on the "rules of the net" and disasterously agreed to meet a child predator she'd chatted with online; two local law enforcement personnel, John Karraker and Jim Gregart; Ruben Rodriguez, the Director of the Exploited Child Unit for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Caroline Curtin, the Director of Children's Policy for AOL; and Kathleen Tucker, the Director of Curriculum Development for I-Safe America.

This seems significant to me, given that 21% of all children -- statistically, hundreds of the children in the phone survey -- are sexually abused (by some definition of the term) before age 18.

Unfortunately, 0 is not a number that extrapolates well to estimate how many of the United States's 70 million children will be physically victimized with help from the internet.