The nature of progress is that things that seem so helpful to us on the one hand can turn out to be a devastating problem at another time. That is clearly the case with our enhanced communication capabilities.

Twenty years ago if you wanted to have a conversation with someone, you had to either call them on a telephone land line or actually go to see them. Then cell phones and the internet entered our lives and we thought we had discovered a terrific communication tool. Well, we had. But so had the predators.

Now comes news out of the Benson Police Department about several child molestation cases where contact was made through texting and/or social networking sites on the internet.

In one case, a Benson man lured three underage girls into having sex with him after starting a friendship with all of them on the social networking site Facebook. One of the girls is from Pima County, but the others are from Cochise County.

In another case, a man who was going through background checks for being hired as a Border Patrol agent was found to have child pornography on his computer. A subsequent search of the hard drive found photos of 15 children derived via the internet.

These cases may have started with the Benson Police Department, but they are certainly not a Benson problem. The internet and social networking have allowed predators to harvest victims in small towns. No longer do you need a city with a large pool of potential victims. All you need is internet access and an account at a social networking site.

The victims are na•ve and in the case of the Benson man charged with luring three minors into sex, all three were convinced he was in love with them. One of the victims, an 11-year-old, was so taken by this predator that she refused to cooperate with authorities for fear he would get into trouble.

The internet isn't going to go away, and neither are cell phones. So this danger will be with us from now on. It is up to parents to act.

Visit your child's social networking site daily. Get his or her password. See who their friends are. Check the contacts in their cell phones and on the computer. Learn how to follow the trail of where your kids have been on the internet.

They will say you are invading their privacy. Better a lack of privacy than a lifetime of regret as a victim. It's up to you.

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