I watched small pieces of tonight's episode, which was, even at that, more than I could stomach. The episode was "To Catch A Predator III", and was footage of a sting operation to confront and capture sexual predators online. The demographics and soon-to-be-terminated jobs of those caught in this sting were all across the board. The one thing these "men" had in common was that these were all grown men, at least one in his 60s, who were going to a house to have sex with who they thought were children between the ages of 12 and 14. According to the blog relating to this special on MSNBC, and I have absolutely no doubt that they were being accurate, the bits of the transcripts they aired weren't even close to the worst these "men" said.
I have family and friends with children who are close to this age bracket, as well as other friends with teenaged kids and parents with younger kids who will soon be in this age bracket. At some point in the future, I also hope to have a family of my own. I've also met victims of abuse and seen what they had to overcome as adults. I mention this to give full weight to what I'm about to say. My reaction to this episode of Dateline was, probably like most viewers, a combination of extreme disgust at these men; a deep, abiding anger at them for behaving in a predatory manner towards who they thought was someone's young kid; sorrow and compassion for any of their past victims; and a deep gratitude to the producers and staff at Dateline, the volunteers at Perverted Justice, and the Riverside County, California, Sheriff's Deputies who arrested, and in many cases, caught, the accused. I know this didn't even put a real dent in the number of those who prey on children, but it was a start, and more people were behind bars after this special was taped than there were before this sting. We may never know the number of children this one sting saved, but we know that number is at least as large as the number of thos arrested, and probably many, many more.
Parents, friends, cousins, teachers, family members, teach your children to be safe, not only online, but in real life. This special was a perfect example of why this is so critical.