Tuesday, May 22, 2007

They are preying on your kids

Remember I wrote about "Dateline" catching online predators. Even though I seemed to mostly criticize the show I did not intend to say that there weren't predators out there. On the contrary. I provided you a link to Amy's story and today I read about a 42-year-old predator who was arrested after assaulting a 15-year-old girl. He drove and flew to meet her, and it didn't happen once but several times. As it is said in the article, the parents really need to do all that's possible to keep their children safe when their are online.

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Monday, May 21, 2007


Note:This is a sponsored post

I was asked to review FYO1 (FoundYouOnline.com). It's the opportunity for me to discover yet another web site I can use to meet people online.

The first thought when you reach the web site is "Oh no how can it be so ugly". It's just blue, blue everywhere. The links are in a sort of green but underlined in yes you've guessed it blue! Ok... So if you can get pass the excess of ...blue, you are [I am] immediately attracted by the huge "FREE" at the upper right of the screen. Did they say free I just have to see that? And off I go to the registration page.

First disappointment, it's a US only website. It's probably easier for them to match people by location with their zip codes. And still I can't help but notice; this page is less blue but still quite ugly. I'm thinking, it might be Firefox. Yes, so many websites are optimized for Internet Explorer and this is one of them. Indeed, it looks better on Internet Explorer which is good, but knowing that an increasing number of people are using other browsers and by other browsers I don't mean only Firefox - I've recently had an increasing number of visitors using Opera - web masters should make an effort in making their websites look decent enough in more than one browser.

Now for a profile. Yes, it's pretty straightforward you are only asked for basic information. Though they do ask you for your address, it's unfortunate I don't like giving my address on the internet unless I'm making a purchase that has to be delivered... Why does a dating site need my address for anyway? Then I go to my profile and still I can't get over the look of the website, I might as well run away from it after all. No, I found the strength to go on and see, who knows, they might have a really interesting pool of members, and besides the service is FREE, remember.

Then it looks so complicated, all this text I have to go through, I decide to postpone my profile update until I'm sure this website is right for me.

Finally, the one thing that I've been wanting to do ever since I discovered this website, search for people... and here I go.

There are three search options:
  • Single
  • Classmates
  • Military

I choose "singles" and I'm very disappointed. They only have a basic search feature by sex, zip code and also you can choose to view only profiles with photos. They have very few members and as oddly as it may seem they have more women than men. I've been on many such sites and they never, ever have more women than men. A total of 6 single men searching for women compared to 47 single women searching for men. Nothing to get excited about really.... There’s only one word that comes to my mind as I browse through the result pages seeing all those single women on the website: "fake". I just don't believe they are all real profiles. I may be wrong but ... I doubt it.

What more can I say. How can the site be improved. Because, yes indeed it can be. They desperately need more members. There are many ways to attract people -a negative review is not one of them-. The fact that the service is free is attractive but you get more service with a free account on a paid site. Let me try to make a list of what I think could help this website succeed.
  1. Find more people. The site's owners should run an aggressive advertising campaign aimed at recruiting new members. because it's seriously lacking members. They should also in the campaign let people know that it's a service aimed at US residents only and not an international web site.
  2. State the service clearly. The site's owners should clearly let people know what exactly is particular about their website. Why would someone join foundyouonline.com instead of any other free dating, military, and classmate or friendship site? Or whatever it is that this site is supposed to offer.
  3. Improve the look. They can keep the blue if they want but make it easier for people to do basic task and find their way around. If it looked more attractive people might just want to spend more time on it.
  4. Once they've improved it ask me to review it again though if it's well done they probably won’t need that....

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Meeting People Offline - part III

I've mot most of my online friends through Yahoo! Chat, especially the very first ones. But of all those Ive had the opportunity to meet face to face only a single one was through Yahoo [members directory]. I want to tell you about this one person I've met through Friendster.

I first came to Friendster after accidentally being invited by a person who didn't know me [a long story]. After getting there I put my picture and thought I might as well stay there and see what happens. After a while, I was contacted by a couple of people. One of the good things about websites such as Friendster is the possibility to send messages to other members for free. Of all the people who contacted me one was a Sri Lankan who was staying in Haiti for a few months. We wrote each other emails, sent each other pictures and talked on the phone. The phone conversations were a great idea for I felt very comfortable talking to him, even when I pressed him with all sorts of queries he would answer me satisfactorily. Then it finally came, the time when we would meet face to face. It was a long anticipated meeting and we did not expect to be able to do it again before he went back to his country. We spent over an hour together, we talked, took pictures, watched a video on Sri Lanka, exchanged gifts and then the time came for us to part.

It was the least awkward offline meeting I've had, I was very relaxed and not worried a bit maybe it's because I was in a ratter 'safe' environment.

We met again the day he was going back to Sri Lanka so we said good bye. Now that he's back to his country we still email each other to keep in touch.

Wasn't that a nice story, unfortunately offline meetings can turn out to be nightmares so always play it safe, for practical advice read from the web sites below:

Online Dating Personals: Safety Tips
Meeting People Online : Is it Safe
About : Teen Advice - Meeting People Online
Amy's Story

Meeting People Online II - To Catch a Predator

I've wanted to write about the american television show Dateline: To Catch a Predator since the first time I watched it. Frankly my thoughts never seemed to come in order as I think of this show. It has existed for some time now but I've only been aware of it in the past months.

The premise of the show is as follows. The people of Dateline team up with a group called 'Perverted-Justice'. They have volunteers from Perverted Justice posing as a 12,13, or 16 year old [age varies] and meeting adult men [as in 18 and up]. The volunteers pose as either boys or girls. They enter chat rooms typically and eventually meet with older men who are very interested in them. The chatting soon becomes very sexually explicit. If you're a woman and have ever met people in chat rooms you know how things can get and what type of conversations most of those people lead. If you're a man you're either one of those people or have no idea what I'm talking about...

After chatting for a while and sometimes even exchanging pictures, the fake kid and the potential predator arrange a meeting a the kid's house. The fake kid tells the potential predator that he/she'll be home alone, so it's a golden opportunity for them to meet. Then they would chat about what he'll do when he gets there. - It does not always go on like this but I just wanted you to have an idea, to know what they chat about visit Dateline's web site.-

Those men are so clueless. But the unreal part of all this is the "child. Never any disgust nor anger no matter what the guy throws at her. That "child" is so willing and going along with absolutely all the men are saying, and telling them that she's home alone is just unreal. A child who does such a thing needs serious help. I really have a hard time imagining any teen ager doing such a thing unless he/she has major issues or really huge problems at home. I've met quite a few young chatters online and they don't disclose their personal information to the new comers just like that. When you think of it, it's really twisted. You can see some videos and transcripts of the show their website.
I couldn't help but feel uneasy watching the show, it was worse after I visited their website. At least one person has died because of that show, a person who committed suicide while police came to arrest him after a series of those chat sessions.

What problem do I have with this show?
You see, I've met so many people online I wont say I've seen it all, hopefully I've not but I have seen a lot and I know what some people are capable of throwing at you. But I've also seen something that those people at Perverted-Justice will probably never see. I've seen men going from the lowest low of online sexual solicitation to actually asking me to forgive them. There is a least one person who became my friend after such an episode but it only happen for two reasons:
1) I never responded positively to any of his solicitations
2) I got seriously mad at him

I actively discouraged him in pursuing such a relationship with me and he knew he would be off my list if he continued.

I believe everyone has at least one low point in his life, hey I have quite a few myself but I also believe that you should help people rise but not fall.

I also believe that many people lead a fantasy life when they are online, it's the virtual world and anything is possible but it stays in the virtual world and they know it's not possible in the real world until someone comes along and tell them that it is and that's exactly what the Perverted-Justice people teamed up with Dateline are telling those men, "No, it doesn't have to stay in the virtual world anymore, now you have a chance to live this fantasy for real."

Even though it's all filmed in the US, I've seen many foreigners show up to meet the home-alone kid they met online, some were asian. When I watched them and listened to what they had to say, they reminded me of some of the people I've met online myself, I couldn't help but think that this was the kind of thing that could happen to them and I couldn't help but feel sorry for those men -not for all of them though-.

Moreover, I've not seen Dateline or Perverted-Justice address the matter of how to protect the children from predators. I'm not denying that there are predators on the internet preying over children but if a child could have the exact same behavior as the Perverted Justice volunteer in chat rooms I believe those children need help and they need it urgently because they will certainly be victims of predators. I don't know if they had done this in previous episodes but I didn't see them say "parents this is how you can protect your children from online predators now that you know that they do exist and that you've seen some of their faces".

Finally, how about the "predators" themselves. Is anything being done to help them, surely they do need help because they will find themselves on the internet again and potentially will meet other children online, what is done to take the predator out of those men? Does Dateline even believe that is necessary?

What is Dateline trying to achieve with "To Catch a Predator"?
Are they trying to warn parents? Warn children? Scare predators? Humiliate a group of men on television ? Or just make more money? Are they helping the community or are they just helping themselves?

One thing is for sure, the show was a success with the audience, so much that it has been copied. America's Most Wanted has teamed up with Miss America herself to make a show that's similar to Dateline's "To Catch a Predator". I've not watched it, therefore I can't say in which way the two shows differ but from what I've seen in the previews and commentaries from the people behind it, I'm not expecting any better.

For parents reading this, do monitor your children's online activities, protect them and help them protect themselves.

Notes: I've gone through Dateline's website again and they do have links for parents and children and for potential predators.

A few links :
Blogcritics Magazine - Thoughts on Dateline's "To Catch a Predator"
The New Republic - Behind "Dateline"'s icky hidden camera series
Internet Safety News - Amy's Story

Related Posts:
Meeting People Online - Part I
Meeting people Offline - part I
Meeting people Offline - part II
Meeting People Offline - part III


Mike is actually the only person I know with whom I share my birth date. I met Mike in a Yahoo Chat room -sorry but I can't tell you which one-. Our conversations started a bit oddly. It was apparent from the first day that littleio11 was not telling all the truth about himself but there was something in the way he talked and in the things he was saying that not only caught my attention but had me wanting to know him better. It's not easy to explain but sometimes you just feel this instant attraction to a person you're chatting with, I felt that for littleio. At first we were practically wresting each other. He wanted me to tell him more about myself, I was being secretive while pressing him for more openness -yes that's me alright-. I eventually had it my way, maybe he suddenly felt comfortable with me, nevertheless he told me about his life and it seemed to make perfect sense.

We were born on the exact same day, can you believe it? What are the chances of such a thing happening? Mike is from Lebanon, so he also speaks French, did I hear someone say wow! We work in the same field. We really have many things in common.

Chatting with Mike was good enough as long as he was still in Lebanon but now that he's spending some time in the US I finally had the opportunity to talk to him on the phone! Oh wow! Now his accent when he speaks English is not exactly as I imagined it but once I had heard it I could tell how he would sound in French! The conversation was fun and pleasant. Now that we've talked on the phone there's only one thing left for us to do! but unfortunately that's not yet possible.