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Kayleigh’s Love Story: It’s Our Responsibility

Kayleigh Haywood’s love story began like most love stories nowadays: on the internet.

She was 15 when she started messaging a man she had never met before, Luke Harlow. For a young girl who was in love with the idea of love, Kayleigh was too naive to see the dangers of her actions.  He said the things she wanted to hear, led her on and quickly reeled her in. She thought they were in love.  

She was coerced into getting drunk and spending the night with Harlow the weekend of Friday the 13th, November of 2015. He took advantage of her, raped her, let his neighbor rape her, murdered her and left her for dead in the woods.

I was speechless. This could happen to anyone.

Although my parents had drilled into my head the rules to safely use the internet, Kayleigh’s parents obviously hadn’t. Because I was part of the generation that was brought up as the technological boom happened, key figures in my life, such as my parents and teachers, had been careful to explain the dangers of the internet. I was told horror stories, similar to this one, about little girls like me who were abducted and killed because they friended a stranger on social media. I was well informed but what about the generation growing up now?  This generation consists of some of the most important little people in my life. They are growing up in a new era.  While we grew up during the boom, they are growing up when technology has already consumed most everyone’s lives. They are truly the generation growing up in the age of technology.   

When I was 10, I walked next door, rang the doorbell and asked if Bella wanted to come out and play. Now I look around and see 10 year-olds with their own iPhones.  

iPads are being used to easily entertain two year olds while when I was two, I entertained myself by playing with my stuffed animals.

I don’t mean to pull out the “when I was a kid” stories but a lot has changed if you actually think about it. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, however, as we mature and educate ourselves, it is our responsibility to make sure these kids know the dangers of such a presence in their lives.

Kayleigh’s parents commissioned this video to bring attention to the problem that we cannot just assume these kids know how to be safe on the internet. We must inform them.

I love all the little youngins in my life but they are growing up in a different generation than we did. Because this technological terrain is constantly changing, we need to adapt with it and make sure our favorite little girls and boys remain safe.

Jess is in her third year at UCF. She is an Advertising and Public Relations major who absolutely loves to write. Jess also tutors on campus at the Writing Center. When she is not writing, working or studying, you can find Jess at the pool, since she loves to swim and play water polo. Jess is super energetic and friendly, so if you see her on campus be sure to say hi! Go Knights!
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