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WARNING:  This is a blog post about a true story. The content of this story is sometimes hard to talk about.

In a world where the internet is a new thing (aka the 90s) and teenage girls are under way more pressure than society chooses to believe (aka now), one message in a chat room leads to years of pain and confusion for thirteen year old Katie Tarbox.

(Okay, so the science fiction sounding opening was not really necessary. But it did get your attention.)

Katie lived a perfectly normal life in her Connecticut town. She lived with her sisters, mom, and step-dad. She was on the swim team. She had a best friend. All was well until one day she logged onto an AOL chat room and started talking to a man that called himself Mark. Their relationship exploded. The two of them would spend hours talking online and on the phone. Then, a few months after they first logged on, they met for the first time when Katie was at a swim meet in Texas.

And Mark is not who he said he was.  As you likely guessed, “Mark” is really a 42 year old man named Frank… and a pedophile.

I’m not going to go any more into the details about this. It’s a true story, Google it yourself. What I will talk about is the message that this book has.

In today’s society, the internet is everywhere. Heck, I’m on it right now writing this blog post. I have Facebook open in another tab and will likely be sharing this on Twitter later…. And I’m just one person. Now wake up and realize that there are billions of people online at any given time. Think about how- like it or not- there are some seriously messed up people in the world. Take a moment and wonder what goes through the minds of innocent teenagers that don’t feel like they are loved enough. See how easy it is for those exact same teenagers to connect with anyone else in the world.

The events in Katie.com took place eighteen years ago. Since then, the internet has grown and become such a major part of a modern lifestyle.

The threat is still there.

I speak as a teenager to everyone else on this. Please be careful what you do online. Katherine’s story is a heartbreaking one and I can only hope that you all never have to go through that.

As for those of you that it’s too late- it is not your fault at this point. Katherine managed to turn her life around (I even found her Twitter page. She’s doing great.) but it took so much work.

With that, I leave you with this: Take the time to read this book and share it with someone you love. The web is an amazing place if you know how to use it safely.

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