Adolescents -- particularly girls -- have long exploited the rumor mill to humiliate a social outcast or a rival for a boy's attention. There are the online polls inviting participants to post salacious or critical assessments of their classmates -- as in "Who's the sluttiest girl at school ?
" or "Reasons to Hate Alex." There are the double agents who entice teens into e-mail chats about their crushes, fears, embarrassments -- and then post them for public ridicule.
And when his mother discovered him lifeless in his own bed from an overdose of a variety of drugs, including morphine, which he purchased online, it was another chilling reminder that not all online predators are seeking sex.
Instead these predators are in the pursuit of profit, and they often strike a bonanza among younger computer users who know how to access their parents' credit card or Pay Pal accounts, but not how to spot a scam.
more The Internet once was seen as a golden "information superhighway" transporting the next generation to the Promised Land.Computer addiction, as players of elaborate online games such as World of Warcraft and City of Heroes become hopelessly obsessed.Web sites in which teens reinforce self-destructive behavior -- for example, "Friends of Ana" sites advocating anorexia.In retrospect, his own classmates posed a graver threat. One victim who became a crusader is Samantha Hahn, the National American Miss for 2005.Silently he endured months of their online torture -- pronouncements like "You're a loser! Her saga began in sixth grade, when her best friend started a rumor that Samantha was lesbian.