When Miranda Cosgrove's band went on its Dancing Crazy tour this summer, she fancied it a bit like college. "We're all on a bus, we watch movies, and it's kind of like having a sleepover every night," says Cosgrove, 18, star of the long-running Nickelodeon hit iCarly. "My backup singer's mom sends cupcakes, and she and I are always telling the guys to pick up their clothes. It's like being in a dorm."
OK, maybe if you add piles of homework and take away some movies, there's a hint of dorm life in...
"I was telling him that basically my home life sucked because of my older sister. I didn't feel like anyone noticed me at home," she says. The man, whose name is withheld for privacy, seemed genuinely interested in her. He gave her all the attention she wasn't getting from her family.
Soon, Amanda says he began enticing her to leave her house in rural Illinois to visit him in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
"I live next to a cornfield that's next to a cornfield…He was telling me there's beaches here, and they've got all these shops," says Amanda, who knew the man's age. "He said, 'If you come here, we can do all these things. Go places.'"
Finally, Amanda agreed to go. After telling her mother she was going to a friend's house, Amanda hitchhiked to Florida. But as soon as she got to the man's apartment, there was a knock at the door. Her mother had called the police. Two detectives were waiting to take her home.
Not long after Amanda returned home, the man came to Illinois. Amanda had given him her address, so he knew exactly where to find her. Again, Amanda went off with him. Again, her mother tracked them down and Amanda was returned home.
Many years later, Amanda found out that the man had kidnapped and sexually assaulted another 15-year-old girl. Today, he's serving jail time.
Now that she's 26, Amanda can't believe how naïve she was to agree to meet a strange man she'd met online. "I just can't believe I did it. But at the time, I didn't think anybody was out to hurt me," she says.
How Safe Are You Online?
Before you panic, thinking that predators are lurking in cyberspace waiting to kidnap you, know that what happened to Amanda is really rare. It's unusual for teens to get lured by online strangers. Most of the time when teens are sexually harassed online, it's kids their age who are doing it.