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11 Jun

Well, let Alice, a just turned 15-year-old with braces on her teeth, help explain exactly what that can mean. The trouble is, that figure represents only registered sex offenders — those naïve enough to use their real names, not those operating under aliases or those without convictions.

Every day after school this week, she turned on her computer and logged on to My Space. The realfigure, experts say, could be five or eventen times higher."My Space is more than a place for friends to meet," warns Richard Blumenthal, the attorney general in Connecticut.

On the second level of a shopping mall in Costa Mesa, California, a short drive down the Pacific Coast Highway from Los Angeles, is a nightclub called Sutra Lounge.

Don't let the location fool you: to the partying young suburbanites in these parts, there is nothing incongruous about a nightclub in a shopping mall.

Users are supposed to be at least 14 years old but no checks are carried out - simply pick a date of birth, enter an e-mailaddress and off you go.“If I can do this on the Internet, why can't I do this in person? My Space anxiety While horrifying headlines tie My Space to teen , research tells another story. Rosen, a psychology professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills, found that only 12 percent of teenagers actually rendezvous offline with an online friend in his recent survey of 482 teens.That finding jibes with similar nationwide studies. With a press of a button, live images are beamed on to Alice’scomputer. Everyone does it."It’s deeply unpleasant stuff but if American law enforcement officers are to be believed, it’s very much the thin end of the wedge. He says he is 19, but is clearly much older and won’t reveal where he is from. Instead he connects up his webcam and directs the camera on to his lower torso.