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Gardai alerted as man tries to lure girls on facebook

GARDAI are investigating several inappropriate approaches made to teenage girls on Facebook.

Parents have been urged to closely monitor their children's online activity as three schoolgirls made complaints.

Two of the teenagers were accompanied by their mothers when they made a formal complaint in Youghal Garda Station in Cork.

A third student made a separate complaint and an investigation is currently underway.

The three girls had been contacted individually by a man who was pushing them to meet in person.

Fortunately, the girls' mothers became aware of the situation at an early stage.

Detectives at the Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit at the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation are currently assisting the investigation.

Dublin TD Maureen O'Sullivan, a former school principal, said that the issues facing children on social media sites were a "minefield" to patrol.

"In my own school, when the kids would go into the computer rooms, there would be a huge number of sites that would be blocked and it would be strictly for educational purposes," she said.

Vigilance

"But it needs 24/7 vigilance. There are home computers, laptops and smart phones now and a lot of parents wouldn't have the particular knowledge about social networking sites."

She praised the courage of the young teens who came forward.

"It is brilliant that those kids opened up but it is the ones that don't go to the police that you would be worried about," she told the Herald.

"That sort of environment is open to abuse -- teenagers can be too trusting.

"It may be a generational thing, but I can't understand how people would share their inner most secrets on site, but I would have had calls into the office from concerned parents and teachers.

"And this is another aspect of it, where it is being used to target young children."

Fine Gael TD Mary Mitchell O'Connor said that teens often trick their parents with two sites.

"It is difficult for school management to monitor what pupils are doing outside school hours," she told the Herald.

"The world wide web is dangerous and paedophiles and adult predators can groom children on social media sites.

"Many parents mistakenly believe that their children's social media sites are private and shouldn't be monitored.

"But many children are putting up two social media sites: one for their friends and one for their parents."

"It is incumbent on parents to monitor what their children are doing on the web and to adopt the tried and trusted rules for parenting -- 'the four ws'. Who is your child with? Where is your child? What are they doing? When will they be home?" she added.

Gardai have confirmed they are following a "strong line of inquiry" and are also liaising with Facebook.

Any young people who have been approached by an individual that they do not know who wants to meet have been asked to contact Gardai.

"We strongly urge parents to be aware of their children's contacts and online exchanges," a Garda spokesman said.

clairemurphy@herald.ie


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