Tuesday, June 19, 2007

O.C. Teen Commits Suicide After Online Relationship

Yesterday's Los Angeles Times published one of the saddest stories I've read recently. An Orange County teenager killed herself at the conclusion of an online relationship with a 27 year-old sexual predator:

Kristin Helms was 14 when the ponytailed Texas man nearly twice her age began slipping through cyberspace and into the computer in her Lake Forest bedroom.

When her parents found his picture on Kristin's computer, they shut down her MySpace account, pulled her Internet privileges for months and warned her about online predators.

But Kiley Ryan Bowers had their daughter in his grip. Kristin, thinking this could be her first true love, used computers outside the house to stay in touch with him. Eventually, he came to Orange County to have sex with her, knowing he could get in trouble because she was a minor.

After their relationship ended, Kristin told her mother everything, and Bowers was later arrested. Kristin decided she couldn't go on. So she didn't.

On a Sunday morning last summer, while her parents were at church, Kristin climbed into the rafters of the family's garage, slipped a noose around her neck and stepped off.

In an age when Internet sex crimes involving minors are becoming a serious concern in the United States, more and more teenagers are bypassing old-fashioned dating rituals and awkward "meet-the-parents" introductions with a few strokes of the keyboard.

Kristin's parents, Danielle and Robin Helms, hope their daughter's story, and their incurable pain over their loss, will convince other children to beware of the online company they keep and show their parents that unyielding vigilance is a must.
County law enforcement authorities said that the Helms' did everything possible to protect their daughter. But Kristin's persistence -- which included logging onto computers outside of the home -- eventually led to a tragic ending. For the photo of Robin and Danielle Helms, arranging flowers at their daughter's gravesite, click here.

The man who had sex with Kristin, Ryan Bowers,
was sentenced to nine years for having illegal sex with a minor and for sending indecent pcitures over the Internet.

I blogged previously about teen online social networking: "
Is MySpace a Parental Nightmare? Navigating the Online Teen Social Networking Phenomenon." Kristen Helms met Ryan Bowers online after finding his MySpace page. Her tragic end represents the worst possible nightmare for Robin and Danielle Helms -- not to mention loving, concerned parents everywhere.

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