We've heard the world is a dangerous place, but more and more parents are saying the same about the Internet.
After missing for four days, in the Bronx.
In tears while speaking on the phone, Cristina Papik was in front of ABC cameras when she learned that her daughter was safe and in police custody.
With applause from concerned community members in the background, Cristina Papik looked into the camera and pleaded with parents, saying "Please do not allow your child on the Internet, do not allow it."
As I watched the clip, my heart was breaking for this mother and her child. I could not begin to imagine how it must feel to be in such a position and to not know where your child is for days. To not know what was happening to them and if they would ever return.
The reassuring feeling of knowing her daughter was safe did not overcome the fear Papik must have been feeling when she made her statement about the Internet.
In that very moment (and by no means am I making light of the seriousness of the situation) I had a flashback to the scene in "Footloose" when the teachers were burning books and John Lithgow rushed over to stop them in dismay, knowing all along that that was not the answer.
I kind of felt the same way. Given our kids are growing up much differently than prior generations, especially when it comes to socializing and meeting people.
Trying to keep them away from the inevitable, using the Internet, is not the answer. It may make a parent feel safer, but that is not going to work in this day and age.
When kids are looking to do things on the Internet that they themselves know is wrong, it is an indicator of a bigger problem that needs to be addressed.
Supervision is definitely key. Parents should be involved in all aspects of what their children are doing on the Internet, but constantly policing your child, especially a teen, is just not possible or realistic.
A proactive approach must be taken. Teens, and those of younger ages, should know what is considered to be appropriate use of the Internet. It should be used as a tool and can be used as a way to connect with friends.
I do not think the Internet should be used by teens to meet other people, but let's face it - that is what is happening. Trying to ignore that will not make the problem, or risk of danger, go away.
In ABC's report, Alisa's younger sister, D'Anna Papik, knew Alisa was using a site to meet other people, stating that "no one was really, like, friends with her at school." Therein lies the larger problem that needs to be addressed.
As parents, we can never be everywhere at once, but it's important to be as involved as possible in every aspect of our children's lives. A large part of the power we possess is to teach them accordingly and often and hope that our most valuable lessons stick.
My heart goes out to the Papik family.