Slew of underage sex cases show lovers met online

Slew of underage sex cases show lovers met online

He was hoping to hook up with someone for sex.

So he logged on to a social networking application that helps men meet each other.

Dave, 32, found someone.

But he was in for a shock when they finally met - the other "man" looked a lot younger than what his profile suggested.

Said the manager, who did not want to reveal his surname for fear of being identified: "The guy's profile only showed his torso and not his face.

"I stupidly assumed that he was at least 18 years old, as you need to be 18 to use the app because it's part of the terms of service."

Fearing that he might break the law, Dave did not go through with the dalliance.

Based on recent court cases, Dave was right to be cautious about the people he meets on social networking sites.

Earlier this month, a 37-year-old man was jailed 10 months for having sex with a 14-year-old boy he met using a social networking app (See report on facing page).

In the last five years, there have been at least 20 reported cases of men who were dealt with in court after having sex with underage boys and girls.

All of them met their victims on social networking platforms.

These cases involved 14 girls and three boys, who were between 12 and 15 years old.

The perpetrators, who were between 16 and 63 years old, were either given probation or jailed for up to three years.

In Dave's case, he said it would be better to be safe than sorry when it comes to sex.

Recalling the incident that took place about four years ago, he said the decision to meet started with him dropping the other party a message.

After some light flirting, they agreed to meet at Dave's flat in the eastern part of Singapore.

SURPRISED

Dave said: "The guy turned up about an hour later and I was surprised by what I saw. He looked very young but insisted that he was 18.

"I didn't want to check his IC or to have sex with an underage kid. So I made up some lame excuse and sent him on his way."

Such cases of underage teens having sex with people they meet through social networking apps are a cause for concern, whether the sex is consensual or not, said experts TNP spoke to.

A spokesman from Marine Parade Family Service Centre's "Metoyou" cyber counselling service said it is important for parents to impart knowledge about the cyberworld to the younger generation.

Responding to queries, she urged parents to spend quality time with their children to build a trustful and loving relationship.

"Parents should protect their children by alerting them of risks and teaching them how they can protect themselves online.

"Parents should set up rules and be the role model they expect their children to obey."

The spokesman added that there are also mobile internet filters from different telecommunication companies to protect children from inappropriate content and other mobile internet threats.

"The company will send SMSes or e-mails to the parents when their children surf inappropriate content on their mobile devices.

"However, please remember this does not replace parental guidance and supervision," said the spokesman.

Counsellor John Vasavan agreed, saying: "At the end of the day, parents must share with their children the possible consequences that could take place when the youngsters meet up with strangers they befriend online.

"There must always be an open line of communication between parent and child."

Mr Vasavan added that one way parents can keep an eye on their children's online activities is by ensuring that the youngsters surf the net in communal areas of the home, like the living or dining room.

Banning smartphones and tablets for teenagers below 18 years old is a strategy that is unlikely to work, he said.

"They can always save their money and buy one on the sly," he said.

Metoyou's spokesman agreed, adding: "It will only cause them to find ways around the ban and hide their activities from their parents, rather than confide in them."

ACCEPTING

Parents should also learn to create an accepting environment where they can talk about issues of sex, sexuality and online safety with their children, said executive director of Oogachaga, Bryan Choong.

Oogachaga provides counselling and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) individuals.

"Regardless of one's sexual orientation or gender identity, youths and adults need to be mindful of online safety when using the Internet or mobile-based social applications."

I didn't want to... have sex with an underage kid. So I made up some lame excuse and sent him on his way. - Dave, a social networking app user

ashaffiq@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on December 15, 2014.
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