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Call Me Dad

Susan Estrich on

Her grandmother was the one who suspected. Too long in the bathroom with the phone. She even missed making cupcakes with her sister and me. Something was wrong. Very, very wrong.

"Check her phone," her grandmother told her daughter. She could not believe what she saw. And read. From a man. He sent pictures. He asked for pictures. Yes, those kind of pictures. He wanted her to call him "Dad."

She is 11.

She met him online. Or, perhaps more accurately, he found her online.

There should be a law, and in California, at least as of last week, there is.

The new law in California, the first of its kind in the nation, requires major platforms -- including ones that don't cater exclusively to kids -- to protect kids from online predators. How? That's the point. If we parents knew how, we could protect our kids ourselves. We don't.

 

Whether you like big government or not, there are just certain things that, try as we might, even the most responsible parents can't control. That's when we look to government for help and when government needs to place the responsibility on those in the best position to protect our kids. And that's not us, try as we might. That's the internet platforms.

You think it can't happen to you, that your kid is protected. Think again. Of course she no longer has a phone. But after years of going to school online, being online is as natural to kids these days as breathing. But so much more dangerous.

Online predators are everywhere. She says he's 13. She claims she doesn't know him. It's in her parents hands to deal with, mine just to worry and to sound the alarm. I've known this child since she was born. I never would have guessed. That's the point.

Whose child will be next?

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