Parents warned of internet dangers

CARROLL COUNTY, Md. -  

Amanda Smith is back in the comfort of her lounge chair, back with new beginnings.

It was in this same place just three years ago where she sat, typing, while her mom was fooled.

"I actually was taking online courses for school and that just made it so much easier because my parents thought I was online doing my school work and I would sit there and I would talk to him," said Smith.  

Kari Smith was typically in the kitchen, comfortable that her oldest daughter was nearby.

Little did she know, she was meeting strangers while in plain view.  Her straight-A student was capable of the impossible.

"I would tell my friends all the time, teenage girls are great.  She talks to me about everything, she comes home from school and just debriefs," said Kari Smith.  

What Amanda left out stunned her parents and changed her life.  At 17, she wanted to branch out from Francis Scott Key High School in Carroll County and meet new people.

She did.  He was 30 years old and living in California.  The two chatted for a month before he flew across the country to meet her down the street.

"I was going to sneak out of the house and try to blend in the shadows as much as I could and just meet him at his car and go from there," said Amanda Smith.   

Amanda did that three nights in a row without her watchful parents knowing.  But when she turned 18, the guy's story changed.  He no longer wanted to be with her, and that's when she crashed down and came clean with her parents.

"Really we had absolutely no idea," said Kari Smith.   

The rule of being online near family wasn't enough.  A youth intervention officer with the Carroll County Sheriff's Office says putting your child online without monitoring software is like sending them to the big city alone.

"You have to remember that time does not equal trust.  Just because you talk to someone for three months, six months, or a year doesn't mean you know that person because you never met them in person," said Master Deputy Worthington Washington.

Washington teaches a phone number given through a chat room can lead a stranger to your doorstep.  Amanda is sharing her story publicly, hoping other teens think before trusting a stranger online.

She's in college now, but her life was put on hold for close to a year.

"I had been so emotionally attached in this relationship that by the time it was done I didn't know what to do with myself.  I honestly had suicidal thoughts, just wanting to self harm," said Amanda Smith.    

"Usually underneath all of this is something, some need of loneliness or just seeking something else, and so just really trying to know their hearts because that I think is the underlying issue," said Kari Smith. 

The Smith family has three younger daughters.  Instead of trusting their computer use in an open space, they are relying on monitoring software to track where the girls are spending time online. 

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