Facebook becomes phonebook for predators stalking America’s kids

Dave Masko's picture

CENTRAL OREGON COAST – Fears have spread throughout these usually laid-back central Oregon coast summer rental neighborhoods -- and in other family communities nationwide -- in the wake of the recent brutal murder of a 8-year old boy in Brooklyn, New York; while it’s revealed that the suspect, Levi Aron, had “238 Facebook friends,” with Aron’s Facebook page stating: “IS YOUR FAMILY SAFE?”

Not one of 'those 238 friends’ of this guy (Levi Aron) on Facebook did anything it seems to stop him from asking is your family safe. I want my family safe,” asserted Leana while walking with her two sons, age 6 and 9, down a central Oregon coastal road this past weekend. “I used to tell them to walk around the house to the beach. Now, I walk with them. That’s what fear does to you,” the mother added in the wake of the brutal murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky who went missing July 13 in his Orthodox Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood. On July 14, it was reported that his body was found and dismembered. What’s known is that the suspected killer, Levi Aron, was hard wired into his Facebook lifestyle; so much so, that many experts now say Facebook has become a phonebook for predators who stalk children and others with easy access to user personal information.

New York police also noted that other Facebook predators have easy access to the frequently hacked Facebook and other social media that are known for their security woes when it comes to keeping user personal information safe from “those who use it as hunters track animals in the woods,” said one expert.

Meanwhile the message from child abuse safety officials in the Eugene area is that good health also means protecting yourself, and your family from the predators who are using Facebook and other social networking sites to stalk kids, families and anyone it seems to please, say experts who’ve studied and tracked Facebook nuts such as Levi Aron.

People like Levi Aron carry out their social life on Facebook with no good results

The Brooklyn boy’s body was “found chopped up in a suitcase,” stated the New York neighborhood newspaper the Village Voice July 17, that also reported that some of the boy’s remains were found in Levi Aron’s refrigerator and in his apartment where he spent his time on a PC doing his Facebook messages to some “238 friends.”

“Drawn by the illusion of companionship with the demands of intimacy, we conduct ‘rick free’ affairs on Second Life and confuse the scattershot postings on a Facebook wall with authentic communication,” states the introduction to “Alone Together; Why We Expect More From Technology And Less From Each Other,” by MIT technology and society specialist Professor Sherry Turkle who spent 15-years exploring why more than 500 million people feel a need to expose their personal lives on Facebook that’s now creating huge social and personal safety problems worldwide.

Based on interviews with hundreds of children and adults who are addicted to Facebook as a means to carry out their social lives, Turkle describes “new, unsettling relationships between friends, lovers, parents and children, and new instabilities in how we understand privacy and community, intimacy and solitude.”

Facebook becomes a story of “emotional dislocation” for many lonely people

Facebook and social media – for many sick people such as Levi Aron – “is a story of emotional dislocation, and of risks taken unknowingly,” states Turkle who is the Abby Rockefeller Mauze Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT. Turkle is also founder and director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, and a licensed clinical psychologist.

The suspect’s Facebook page, under the name Levi A., has now been widely featured on TV and Internet sites since the brutal murder of the 8-year-old boy.
Aron’s Facebook page included “238 friends,” stated the Village Voice report, while also noting that “most most disturbing is the Facebook group Levis belongs to entitled, “IS YOUR FAMILY SAFE? Find out who really lives in your area.”

“That scared the heck out of me,” said Leana while walking with her two sons, age 6 and 9 down a central Oregon coastal road this past weekend. “I think about this crazy man and his Facebook group who are in to stalking kids anywhere, and you know I’m warning others to watch their Facebook because there’s sick people out there.”

In turn, the Facebook page that Aron and “238” other “friends” used on Facebook to track kids and other horrors is linked to “a catalog of sex offenders,” adds the Village Voice report while noting New York Police Department’s commissioner Ray Kelly pointing to an ongoing investigation into Aron’s Facebook “friends” and what others are up to on Facebook.

“Aron's Facebook page, which lists him as a resident of Brooklyn, New York, also shows an interest in popular culture including musicians like Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and at least three American Idol contestants, along with television like Seinfeld, The Office and Glee. Most of his 238 Facebook friends are women, like "Real Paula Abdul," though other Brooklyn residents by the last name of Aron are in there, too. Since we found the page, Aron has lost at least eight Facebook friends, indicating that as his identity circulates, his online network has started to distance themselves from him,” stated the Village Voice.

In turn, one New Yorker inteviewed after the boy's body was found, and Aron was arrested, said: "What are people doing on Facebook. Where do they get the time to live like that."

Also, there’s been thousands of posters spread throughout the Brooklyn area warning parents about Facebook and other social media being the go to place for predators who access personal information to their kids comings and goings.

“I know friends who use headlines on their Facebook pages telling grandma and other relatives that so and so is going to be here at such a time. It’s like giving someone a map to finding your kids,” explains Leana while walking with her two sons, age 6 and 9, down a central Oregon coastal road this past weekend.

Brain refocus vital to avoid computer, Internet burnout for good health

Besides being aware of the dangers of putting yourself and your family’s personal information and photos on Facebook, experts in the Eugene area are telling “Baby Boomers” and senior center groups that “maybe you go back to sending photo albums over posting photos of the kids on Facebook.”

Also, Boomers are warning the younger generation that too much time on Facebook may not be healthy to one’s mental outlook.

Due to overuse of technology – starring at computer, smartphone, iPad and other screens that take you into cyberspace – “your brain sends you false messages all the time throughout your day,” state leading brain experts in what’s become “brain vs. technology” in recent books by neuroscientists concerned about brain health in a time of massive Internet use.

More and more Americans have brains that are leading them down a dangerous path resulting in depression, anxiety, troubled relationships, addiction, excessive anger, emotional isolation and other woes, says Dr. Jeffrey M. Schwartz in a new “brain health” book. For example, “She going to leave me!” is the brain message, writes Dr. Schwartz, while saying a response might be “check my e-mail again to see if she responded, and everything is okay?” Neuroscientists also make the point that many people today reply more on technology than their own brains to understand human relationships when, in fact, a computer, an Internet Facebook or Tweet site is simply cyber space and not real. A computer can’t smell, for example. It’s a machine, while the human brain is “us.”

What makes us human revealed in the “tell-tale brain”

“It’s the little things that make you realize that being online all the time changes you in some way,” says famed neurologist V.S. Ramachandran, whose taken a Sherlock Homes-style approach to try and understand why people “online” desire to escape normal life over cyberspace in his new book “The Tell-Tale Brain” A Neuroscientist’s Quest for What Makes Us Human.”

Ramachandran, who’s lectured here in the Eugene area, is the director of the Center for Brain and Cognition and Distinguished Professor with the Psychology Department and Neurosciences Program at the University of California, San Diego. The professor describes the brain as “looking like a walnut made of two mirror-image halves,” that needs food, exercise, fresh air, sunlight and human interactions to stay healthy.

In turn, Ramachandran traces the “strange links between neurology and behavior,” while explaining that the human brain can exhibit “bizarre behaviors in terms of the innermost workings of the brain,” when it’s exposed to technology on a daily and regular basis.

Such warnings, it seems, do not amount to a hill of beans in a world that’s getting more wired daily with no stopping cyberspace and it’s negative and unhealthy influence on both young and old brains that “absorb” information like a sponge.

Oregon “hippie” festival bans all technology to give people’s brains a break from technology

Liz, a University of Oregon business student sits at the recent “Oregon Country Fair” and makes drawings of passersby and the nature that surrounds her amongst some 50,000 others who spent July 8-10 in a forest outside of Eugene to escape technology and give their overloaded brains a break from cyberspace.

“What I think many ‘Fair’ goers found, as I did, was that you can operation on a different level without the aid of computers. Many forgot that they can enjoy human contact without doing it online. I started drawing again, and I had not done that since high school,” explained Liz who let out a long exhalation of relief after saying she’s spent “the first day in a long time without the Internet on.”

In fact, many people in America today keep the Internet on 24/7. And, in turn, they are also online in all its many forms throughout the day. “I was in a woman’s stall at the Fair and I heard someone next to me on her cell. When we were washing our hands after, I joked ‘shame on you, and she just nodded and smiled as if she knew that doing one’s business should not include a cell chat or Tweet.”

Addiction to technology now coming out of the closet in America

Country Music star Blake Shelton has recently admitted to being “addicted to Twitter,” during various media interviews. Shelton freely admits that “since I started Tweeting I don’t have as much times on my hands because any time I get a free moment I have all these random thoughts that I want to share with the country,” added Shelton during an interview with Baltimore disc jockey Laurie DeYoung.

At the same time, Liz noted that while she was taking a break from summertime classes, she attended the recent Oregon Country Fair outside of Eugene to “again be with the living.”

“There’s these basement computer labs at the University of Oregon where you see these pale looking, bloodshot eyes students who, on occasion come out to eat and get some sunshine. And, you know, they can’t look you in the eye, they can’t just be themselves and hang out because they’re too focused, it seems, on cyberspace and, sadly, that’s where they’re living, existing now.

In turn, those who attended the “Fair,” said they really didn’t miss the technology.

“I was too busy meeting old friends. To tell you the truth, I didn’t notice there were no computers around. Thanks for reminding me of that,” joked Wes Neborsky, who deals in real estate in the Eugene area.

Nebrosky also noted that he had to “refocus” for a few days after the Fair to re-wire his brain again for his job that requires him to spend massive amounts of time, day in and day out, online.

You are not your brain, and you are not a computer

“We’ve shown you that the brain is capable of sending out false, deceptive message in an unrelenting fashion and that these unwanted thoughts and destructive urges can overrun your life,” adds Dr. Schwartz.

“A leading neuroplasticity researcher and the coauthor of the groundbreaking books Brain Lock and The Mind and the Brain, Jeffrey M. Schwartz has spent his career studying the structure and neuronal firing patterns of the human brain. He pioneered the first mindfulness-based treatment program for people suffering from OCD, teaching patients how to achieve long-term relief from their compulsions. For the past six years, Schwartz has worked with psychiatrist Rebecca Gladding to refine a program that successfully explains how the brain works and why we often feel besieged by bad brain wiring,” states an Amazon.com review for this recent “brain” book that joins dozens of other best sellers about how to stop brain overload from computer and digital technology.

“The effectiveness of You Are Not Your Brain lies in empowering readers with the knowledge and skills to help themselves. Schwartz and Gladding lay the groundwork by explaining the science behind deceptive brain messages. In easy-to-understand terms, they clarify how several biological principles combine together to wire habits into the brain - thus making them extremely difficult to change - and why focusing your attention is key to changing your brain. With that background, the authors then teach readers how to assess the meaning and importance of the thoughts and impulses that enter their head so they can make choices that are consistent with the person they want to be (not the one their brain is trying to tell them they are),” adds the Amazon.com review for this book that explains how the brain is duped by technology.

Because Dr. Schwartz noted that those “wired habits into the brain” are “extremely difficult to change,” other doctors and neuroscientists worry that excessive time online – in all its many forms – may “damage the brain.”

Brain is easy to influence by computers and other stimuli, state experts

“What I am proposing is that the human brain is a much more constrained organ than we think, and that it places strong limits on the range of possible cultural forms. Essentially, the brain did not evolve for culture, but culture evolved to be learnable by the brain. Through its cultural inventions, humanity constantly searched for specific niches in the brain, wherever there is a space of plasticity that can be exploited to “recycle” a brain area and put it to a novel use,” explained Stanislas Dehaene in a Scientific American interview that noted that Dehaene holds the chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology at the Collège de France, and he is also the director of the INSERM-CEA Cognitive Neuroimaging Unit at NeuroSpin, France’s most advanced neuroimaging research center.

Dehaene is best known for his research into the brain basis of numbers, popularized in his book, “The Number Sense.” In his new book, “Reading in the Brain,” he describes his quest to understand an astounding feat that most of us take for granted: translating marks on a page (or a screen) into language.

This research has produced evidence that the brain can be harmed by excessive exposure to “constant” streams of digital information sent via smartphones, the Internet, via iPads and in general from too much time spent starring at computer screens, say experts.

Reading, mathematics, tool use, music, religious systems and technology -- all might be viewed as instances of cortical recycling, adds Dehanene who also warns that the “brain” is vulnerable to information in all its forms.

For instance, Microsoft’s Bill Gates made headlines a few years ago when he told Charlie Rose on his PBS talk show that he only allows his children to “stay online no more than two hours per day,” and that includes time for school work.

It's also known that Gates does not use Facebook.

Gates also told Rose that he was “alarmed” when his kids said “they were bored,” and could not share in the family’s dinner conversations because they were “distracted by too much technology.”

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