Sexual predators have found the Internet to be one of their most effective allies, especially against naive victims. That includes children.
During the weekend a juvenile girl reported she was raped near a baseball field on Wheeling Island - by a teenaged boy from Maryland she connected with through the Internet. Wheeling police, no doubt with assistance from other departments, are looking for the boy.
In explaining the case to our reporter, Deputy Police Chief Martin Kimball issued yet another reminder about Internet safety: "Parents need to monitor their child's access on the computer and find out who they're communicating with."
It is a warning repeated often - because sexual predators continue to be successful in using the Internet to identify and contact victims, then win their trust. What follows are meetings that all too often result in assaults and sometimes murder.
Internet businesses such as Facebook and MySpace specialize in helping people connect with others. Their analysts, estimating tens of thousands of sexual predators may be attempting to use their services, have taken steps to ban those using the Internet for nefarious purposes.
But the complex World Wide Web offers more opportunities than can be guarded against. Chat rooms, often those on teen-related topics, are "trolled" by the predators.
Kimball's warning was yet another reminder that the only effective protection against Internet predators for juveniles is parental supervision.
Few youngsters like to have their parents watching over their shoulders and demanding to know what they are doing, whether the Internet or going out with one's friends is involved. But just as a concerned mother or father demands to know where a teenager is going, with whom the trip is to be made, what activities are planned and when to expect the son or daughter home again, similar questions need to be asked about "going out" on the Internet. Asking those questions - and insisting on answers - may save your child from a predator.