Internet dangers loom large for kids
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) —
The dangers fly at kids at the speed of the internet when they're online.
"All kids are at risk," said Paula Royce of the Tulsa County Juvenile Board.
With parents warned so often it's desensitizing.
"It's easy for us to say, it's over there," said Anna America, Executive Director of the Child Abuse Network, but Samantha Thornburg is proof that over there is right here.
"He was trying to get me to come meet him; he was offering to pay me to keep him a secret," she said.
Fortunately, this 15-year-old had the presence of mind to immediately tell her mom, the sheriff and the public about the sexually charged messages 38-year-old Dustin Clark was allegedly sending to her, and in the process, shining a light on just how treacherous the web is for kids on a daily basis.
"Hey, saw your picture, you're cute, nudes for nudes?" That is a message that Anna America's 14-year-old daughter once received from a stranger.
"And I was, I mean I stopped and was completely shocked, and she said, 'Mom, all the girls get that, it's pretty regular,'" she said.
"We know that 100 percent of victims leave willingly," said Royce.
At the Tulsa County Juvenile Bureau, they've dissected the the predator playbook.
"If that predator can convince that victim, 'Hey, I can show you a better life. Hey, come have fun with me. Hey, you're right, your parents are too strict, it's time for you to go,' 100 percent of our victims we know leave willingly," said Royce.
It's only then they realize they're with Jekyll and Hyde and can very easily wind up in a ring of child sex trafficking.
"We've had victims end up, from Tulsa, end up in Louisiana, in Houston, in Dallas, because they're actually physically taken out of state," said Royce.
"Oh, I could have lost my daughter forever and that's unthinkable," said Samantha's mother.
A rock solid relationship with her parents saved Samantha.
"Talk to your parents, be open about it, don't be afraid to come forward," she said.
It's a wake-up call to get back to basics, before the virtual world turns into an actual nightmare.
"And we all know this and we hear this as parents, but you really, really, really need to have these conversations with your kids," said America.