The real lesson of Minneapolis police officer Bradley Schnickel’s arrest on six felony counts of luring and having sexual encounters with young girls is that social networking makes this predatory behavior so much easier than it used to be.
Reading the complaint against Schnickel illustrates how with a few clicks, someone can create an alternate online persona.
Even more frightening is how easy it is to meet, approach and befriend not just one or two, but potentially many young victims. Couple that with the unending insecurities of adolescence, and you have a minefield for exploitation.
The victims in the Schnickel case don’t remember a world without social media, a medium many young people their age use to pour out their most intimate secrets to friends. Some say parents must monitor their kids online activities. But is it really possible to monitor every online dealing an adolescent has?
I don’t think so. They, too, can create alternate accounts that can easily lose a watchful parent. Adolescence is a time for growing independence, and the notion of electronically eavesdropping, either openly or secretly, on all of a young person’s communications seems not just impractical, but intrusive.
I plan to have my 13-year-old read what Bradley Schnickel is accused of. I am not sure how else to drive home the reality that predators use the very tools kids live by to manipulate, deceive and abuse their unsuspecting and trusting victims.