Dating site to the rescue

Calls for internet access levels on schools’ browers to be increased may soon be voiced, despite one teenage girl’s registration on a dating site via her homework laptop lead to her discovery after going missing.

When fourteen year-old Hanna Snider disappeared in Sorrento, Maine earlier this week, it was only through the dating site membership on her hard-drive and browsing history that her discovery at a boy’s home in Thomaston was effected so swiftly.

There is only so much protection any school can provide to control what their students access online, even if they do adhere to the CIPA* guidelines to the letter. As it stands, in order for schools and libraries to qualify for certain funding, they have to ensure browsing filters recommended under The Children’s Internet Protection Act are installed and implemented. However, once the student gets home, there are no such governance implications. If there are any limits, they are those imposed by the parents, not any school board.

This is where the onus really passes back to social media platforms and online dating sites to vet sign-ups with more scrutiny. Questions have got to be asked, ‘How did a minor manage to become a member of an internet-based dating community? and ‘What levels of control can social media platforms, singles dating sites, parents and schools enforce to limit minors access, and volumes of contacts once registered, thereon?

In circumstances such as Miss Snider’s, where potentially hundreds of contacts may need to be searched through in case of disappearance, critical time may be lost with so many individuals, be they schoolmates, social media buddies or potential partners on a contact site.
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RSU 24, Maine’s appointed regional schoolboard, is aware of the importance of computer safety and its incorporation into the curriculuum, and beyond. As such, it stresses to its pupils’ parents to keep tabs on what they are browsing whilst using the internet at home, especially the more adult contact service or online dating agencies, where the filters applied in the classroom cannot be enforced.

With apps being developed which double-check registrations, and pressure being applied from all areas of society regarding accessibility and exposure on multiple levels of the internet, it could be time that internet dating sites set the precedent by introducing more stringent sign-up methods.

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