- The Washington Times - Monday, February 27, 2017


A chicken in every pot. A television in every home. A cellphone and computer in every child’s hands.

Parents, dear parents, please get a grip on social networking.

Do you really and truly know what your child is doing in this World Wide Web of global connectivity?

One case in point: A 21-year-old man from Estonia named Meiti Metsla is behind bars in Virginia after he reportedly traveled here to be with a missing 15-year-old girl.

The two were found in the Shenandoah Valley city of Harrisonburg — and though the commonwealth’s tourism slogan in Virginia is for lovers, let’s pray she wasn’t his prey as a consort.

See, children have easy access to cellphones, televisions and computers these days, which allows them to touch base with people they know, people they think they know and people they don’t know at all — including people who claim to be one thing but actually are child predators.

Even adult hunters become prey, hoping to find Mr. Goodbar for a hook-up or getting hooked on social networking with a woman who texts and chats like she’s your dream girl but who could be a more monsterlike Aileen Wuornos, who went on crime sprees that eventually escalated into serial killing before she was caught, convicted and executed.

Those are extreme cases, for sure, and that’s the scary thing.

Children cannot distinguish between safe online communications and the invisible people on the lookout victims.

Back in Wuornos’ day, the 1970s and ‘80s, truck stops were one of her favored hunting grounds. These days, all predators need is an internet connection and parents who don’t want to use their own eyes and ears to pry into their children’s whereabouts and networks.

Another example: In Maryland, Montgomery County Police are searching for 18-year-old Angelica Ivania Barahona-Rivas, who went to work on Saturday, was in contact with someone by cellphone and then simply walked off the job. Outdoor surveillance cameras caught her strolling away from her workplace.

What’s more, a female cousin of Angelica’s is believed to have been murdered recently by a gang member. The cousin’s body was dumped in Virginia.

The cousin was 15 years old, and her name was Damaris Alexandra Reyas Rivas.

Ten people were arrested in connection Damaris’ death, four men and six teens. One of the teens is Venus Lorena Romero Iraheta, 17, an acquaintance of Damaris who also had been reported missing.

Law enforcers suspect the international street crime organization known as MS-13, or Mara Salvatrucha, is involved.

“These kids are part of a big social network, and some are more acquainted than others,” said Fairfax County Police spokeswoman Tawny Wright. “We are trying to sort that out before we press more charges.”

Social networking, like fire and water, should be contained — and I do not mean by hog-tying the First Amendment.

Parents need to hog-tie their children.

I’m sure some of you are familiar with the V-chip, the technology that allows you to control your child’s television access. You set the chip for age-appropriateness to block violent and sexual content and the like.

All TV sets larger than 13 inches and manufactured since 2000 must abide by federal law and have the V-chip installed.

When the great debates about to chip or not to chip were going in the 1990s, I was a strong proponent who proclaimed that I am the V-chip in my house, as all parents should be.

Alas, the time has come for all parents to come to the aid their children, and rescue them from the ills of social networking.

Open your eyes and position your ears. Evil lurks behind the screen — and, no, that evil does not necessarily have a Spanish surname.

Deborah Simmons can be contacted at [email protected]

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