Wednesday, May 25, 2011

You Make It Safe, Or Do I?

A 53-year old woman named Carole Markin used Match.com to seek out a potential relationship.  Online dating has become one of the social norms for finding dates, almost as common as visiting the local bar or club. We are bombarded with advertising for many different online dating companies, on TV, radio, and print.  I even have several friends that found their true love’s on the internet.  So why wouldn’t something that is becoming fully integrated into our society as a dating ritual be safe?  That is what Carole Markin is asking.

She met a man named Alan Paul Wurtzel.  On her second date with him, he allegedly sexually assaulted her.  While I abhor sexual violence in any form, whether or not he did it is not my point to ponder today.  Carole Markin is suing Match.com for not screening their members though the National Sex Offender Registry.  After she was attacked, she googled Wurtzel and found that he was convicted of multiple counts of sexual battery.  She wants Match.com to cease taking new members until a screening process can be implemented.  After her attack and lawsuit Match.com stated that they are the beginning stages of implementing the screening but admits the process will take months to complete. 

With millions of people making online connections daily what are the safety issues?  If someone like Carole Markin, who has life experience and is a functioning adult could take it for granted that other entities were responsible for screening and insuring their members are not sex offenders who else could?  Carole was looking for a date and potential relationship.  What are teens looking for?  Are they searching for friends, hook-ups, or someone to relate to?  Does this make teens easy targets?  Does eharmony.com, Chemistry.com, twitter.com, or Facebook screen for sex offenders? 

Should it be the responsibility of the social website or up to the discretion of the consumer to keep themselves safe?  If it is up to the consumer who should be looking out for our teens best interests and safety?  Should it be up to the parents, advocates, schools, government, internet providers, or teachers?

Now that the internet and all its capabilities aren’t so novel have we become more complacent in our own online safety?  Who is affected by our complacency?  These are points to ponder.

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