North Port teen victim of internet predator

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NORTH PORT, Fla. - What began as an online chat ended up as something much more.  Authorities say a 16-year-old victim from North Port met 47-year-old Steven Anthony Siderias through the gay-oriented dating website "Adam 4 Adam."

Reports show Siderias traveled to North Port from his home in North Carolina to pick up the victim.

Authorities were able to track the pair to a motel in Frederick, Maryland, where Siderias was arrested.

After pleading no contest to charges of interference with custody of a minor in Sarasota County, Siderias was released after three months in jail. Six days later, he committed suicide.

Authorities say a case like this is a reminder of the dangers anyone can face online.

"A lot of people, specifically minors or kids, will go to these dating sites, and they'll enter into a chat room which will then go into a private chat room from an individual, and they'll develop a relations, a friendship," said Sergeant Chris Born of the Sarasota Police Department, who is not connected with the Siderias case. Born's specialty is investigating online crimes against kids.

"Where teens feel that they are an adult, and they will go into these chat rooms or communicate with these individuals and not really know who they're talking to, they're total strangers," said Born.

However, dating websites like the one used to connect Siderias and his victim are completely legal.

Safety experts say staying safe online ultimately comes down to good parenting; sometimes easier said than done.

"Some parents don't know how to use the technology themselves," said Ella Strand of the Child Protection Center, "so they're so afraid of the unknown and they just don't deal with it."

But she says don't be afraid. Instead, take an active, hands-on approach.

"There's always something new, there's always a new app, always a new social media app for kids to share and so it takes a lot of effort for parents to really stay engaged in what's going on," said Strand.