Paedophile Ring becomes Lying 14 Year OldYesterday, the big story in Ireland was that some woman down the country had found various sexually explicit text messages from men on her 14 year old son's phone, and that he had been involved with a ring of paedophiles, from the Internet. Much panic and throwing hands up to heaven.
The truth was rather more prosaic; he had pretended to be a 19 year old on Gaydar, a popular gay, erm, dating, site (which the newspaper today rather charmingly refers to as being visited by 'hundreds of men a week'; the print media seems to have issues with the true scale of the Internet), where he said that he was looking for casual sex with older men.
Now, could a 14 year old really be taken for a 19 year old? Well, yes, probably. People often think I'm well under 18; until last year the guy at the DART station used to give me a schoolchild ticket (for under 16 year olds) whenever I asked for a student ticket, and I always get ID'd doing anything I could conceivably need to be ID'd for (including going to the cinema, once). I am actually 21. I assume this can work in reverse quite happily.
So, in any case, he actually had sex with two of the men he contacted (one, rather worryingly, a teacher). Whether these two knew he was under 17 isn't made clear. (They've committed a crime whether they did or not, though). He just talked to the others, who generally backed away if they figured out he was lying about his age.
The point is, really, that papers should probably be a bit more careful reporting this sort of thing. As it is, they made false claims and caused far more panic than the situation warrants, and in particular probably caused a lot of panic for the people in the 'paedophile ring' whose only crime was to be contacted by someone who was lying about his age.