Of course I'm anonymous online



Something every on-line kid should read, along with their parents....

Shannon could hear the footsteps behind her as she walked toward home
The thought of being followed made her heart beat faster. "You're being
silly," she told herself, "no one is following you." To be safe she began
to walk faster, but the footsteps kept up with her pace. She was afraid to
look back and she was glad she was almost home. Shannon said a quick
prayer, "God, please get me home safely." She saw the porch light burning
and ran the rest of the way to her house.

Once inside she leaned against the door for a moment, relieved to be in
the safety of her home. She glanced out the window to see if anyone was
there. The sidewalk was empty. After tossing her books on the sofa she
decided to grab a snack and get online. There she could talk to strangers
without being afraid. After all, no one knew who she really was and
couldn't hurt her. She logged on under her screen name ByAngel213.
Checking her Buddy List she saw GoTo123 was on. She sent him an instant
message:

ByAngel213: Hi I'm glad you are on! I thought someone was following
me home today. It was really weird!
GoTo123: LOL You watch too much TV. Why would someone be following
you? Don't you live in a safe neighborhood?
ByAngel213: Of course I do LOL I guess it was my imagination
cause didn't see anybody when I looked out.
GoTo123: Unless you gave your name out online. You haven't done that
have you?
ByAngel213: Of course not. I'm not stupid you know.
GoTo123: Did you have a softball game after school today?
ByAngel213: Yes and we won!!
GoTo123: That's great! Who did you play?
ByAngel213: We played the Hornets LOL.. Their uniforms are so gross!
They look like bees LOL
GoTo123: What is your team called?
ByAngel213: We are the Canton Cats. We have tiger paws on our
uniforms. They are really kewl.
GoTo123: Do you pitch or what?
ByAngel213: No I play second base. I got to go... My homework has to
be done before my parents get home. I don't want them mad at me! Bye
GoTo123: Catch you later.. Bye

GoTo123 decided it was time to teach Angel a lesson. One she would
never forget. He went to the member menu and began to search for her
profile.
When it came up he highlighted it and printed it out. He took out a pen and
began to write down what he knew about Angel so far.
Her name: Shannon
Birthday: Jan. 3, 1985 age:13
State where she lived: North Carolina
Hobbies: softball, chorus, skating and going to the mall.
Besides this information he knew she lived in Canton. She had just told
him. He knew she stayed by herself until 6:30 every afternoon until her
parents came home from work. He knew she played softball on Thursday
afternoons on the school team and the team was named the Canton Cats. Her
favorite number was printed on her jersey. He knew she was in the seventh
grade at the Canton Junior High School. She had told him all this in the
conversations they had on line. He had enough information to find her now.
"She'll be so surprised," he thought, "she doesn't even know what she has
done."

Shannon didn't tell her parents about the incident on the way home from
the ball park that day. She didn't want them to make a scene and stop her
from walking home from the softball games. Parents were always overreacting
and hers were the worst. It made her wish she was not an only child. Maybe
if she had brothers and sisters her parents wouldn't be so overprotective.

By Thursday Shannon had forgotten about the footsteps following her. Her
game was in full swing when suddenly she felt someone staring at her. It
was then that the memory came back. She glanced up from her second base
position to see a man watching her closely. He was leaning against the
fence behind first base and he smiled when she looked at him. He didn't
look scary and she quickly dismissed the fear she had felt.

After the game he sat on a bleacher while she talked to the coach. She
noticed his smile once again as she walked past him. He nodded and she
smiled back. He noticed her name on back of the shirt. He knew he had
found her. Quietly he walked a safe distance behind her. He didn't want to
frighten her and have to explain what he was doing to anyone.
It was only a few blocks to Shannon's home and once he saw where she
lived he quickly returned to the park to get his car. Now he had to wait.
He decided to get a bite to eat until the time came to go to Shannon's
house. He drove to a fast food restaurant and sat there until time to make
his move.

Shannon was in her room later that evening when she heard voices in the
living room. "Shannon, come here," her father called. He sounded upset
and she couldn't imagine why. She went into the room to see the man from the
ballpark sitting on the sofa. "Sit down," her father began, "this man is
a policeman and he has just told us a most interesting story about you."
Shannon moved cautiously to a chair across from the man. How could he
tell her parents anything? She had never seen him before today!
"Do you know who I am, Shannon?" The man asked.

"No," she answered. "I am your online friend, GoTo123."

Shannon was stunned. "That's impossible! GoTo is a kid my age! He's
14 and he lives in Michigan!"

The man smiled. "I know I told you all that but it wasn't true. You
see, Shannon, there are people online who pretend to be kids. I was one of
them. But while others do it to find kids and hurt them, I belong to a
group of parents who do it to protect kids from predators. I came here to
find you to teach you how dangerous it is to give out too much information
to people online. You told me enough about yourself to make it easy for me
to find you. Your name, the school you went to, the name of your ball team
and the position you played. The number and name on your jersey just made
finding you a breeze."

Shannon was stunned. "You mean you don't live in Michigan?"

He laughed. "No, I live in Raleigh. It made you feel safe to think I
was so far away, didn't it?" She nodded.

"I had a friend whose daughter was like you. Only she wasn't as lucky.
The guy found her and murdered her while she was home alone. Kids are taught
not to tell anyone when they are alone, yet they do it all the time online.
The wrong people trick you into giving out information a little here and
there online. Before you know it, you have told them enough for them to find
you without even realizing you have done it. I hope you've learned a lesson
from this and won't do it again." "I won't," Shannon promised.
"Will you tell others about this so they will be safe too?"
"It's a promise!" That night Shannon and her dad and Mom all knelt down
together and prayed. They thanked God for protecting Shannon from what
could have been a tragic situation.

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