When you look at Philip Markoff, the 22-year old accused of being the "Craigslist killer," you could never imagine that he could be responsible for such crimes. According to his fiancee, he's a nice, clean cut, intelligent med student. But the police have painted a different picture – that of of a cold-blooded killer who went trolling for his victims online.
I'm sure his postings looked innocent enough and, when accompanied by his photo, painted an image of an all-American guy just looking for a good time. It's easy to see how his victims were duped. And if it's that easy for an adult to be conned, just imagine what our teens are facing? How easy is it for a 14- year old girl to assume she's chatting online with a guy from college who asks to meet her at the mall only to discover it's some 44-year old psycho?
It's hard to keep up with what our kids are doing online but it's vital! We need to establish a level of trust with them so that they understand we're not trying to control their lives but merely protect them from crazies out there. Top things to remind them of:
– Never give personal information to anyone they meet online – this includes cell phone number, address or school they attend.
– Let friends know about people they've connected with online.
– If they are going to meet someone in person that they met online they should only go with another friend and never alone.