At one time, not so many years ago, it was enough for parents to pay attention to their children's friends. Some, as mom and dad knew, might be nothing but trouble.
Those were the good old days, in a way. Now, it is not enough to keep an eye on friends from school or in the neighborhood. Now, the Internet gives predators an invitation into our homes - and our children's lives.
On a recent Sunday morning for example in Putnam County, W.Va., sheriff's deputies were called to investigate a report of a missing 12-year-old girl. Near the child's home, they were notified of a suspicious vehicle.
When they got to the car, they found a 33-year-old man from Michigan, naked on top of the girl. Her clothes had been removed from the waist down. A deputy noted "there was sexual activity going on in the vehicle."
The man was arrested and deputies learned he and the girl had made contact through an online game, "World of Warcraft." He planned to take the child back to Michigan.
"People need to be aware that this is something that goes on every day," a deputy remarked of the situation. Sadly, it is. Perverted adults use the Internet to victimize children all the time.
That means parents must be more vigilant. Even what once would have been assumed to be safe venues like Putnam County, W. Va., or rural Iowa can be rendered vulnerable to criminals stalking children on the Web. Do you know where - on the Internet - your child is? If not, find out. Don't let an online predator become your worst nightmare.