Facebook can be a highly dangerous place, especially for naive and impressionable teens. The Internet is teeming with predators, and if your teen comes into contact with but one of them, their life could be ruined forever. In fact, just recently, a case in Australia proved exactly just how dangerous it can be.
John Zimmerman is a 26-year old who used to be the tour manager of The Getaway Plan, a teen band which is now inactive. Zimmerman was recently laden with 87 charges, particularly 23 counts of sexual penetration of a child under 16 years old, 3 rapes, and multiple counts of indecent acts and using the Internet for procuring minors and child pornography. He claimed 55 victims in nearly four years, right up until he was arrested last November 2009. His account was banned immediately thereafter. But then he created a new fake account and started from there, this time claiming that he was a teen. Zimmerman was arrested for a second time in March 2010.
Zimmerman had allegedly used Facebook and MySpace to find his victims. He would scour the fanpages for possible targets and used his position as a tour manager to get close to the girls. He often offered them free tickets, backstage passes, merchandise, and sometimes even promised fame and fortune – though he never did make good on any of his promises. The girls were often thrilled to be contacted by someone from the music industry, and were sometimes willing to give him sexual favors in exchange for what was promised. Zimmerman was good at what he did too. He knew just what to say and how to say it in order to make the teens trust him, often giving them flattering nicknames and claiming to personally know their music idols.
Zimmerman was very abusive to the girls he victimized. In one incident, he had sex with a 14-year old girl and soiled her uniform. When he was done, he took her back to the school and yelled, “Slut,”as he drove away.
Whenever his victims tried to get away from him, he would often threaten them with violence. Sometimes, he even threatened to release naked photos of them. Zimmerman was also a stalker, often flooding the inbox of reluctant victims with threats and insults if they refused to bend to his will.
The sheer number of victims Zimmerman claimed, and the story of his actions is enough to chill any parent to the bone. It truly raises the question of how much more Facebook should take to ensure that the network is safe for minors.