Tonight marks NBC's fifth installment of To Catch A Predator, a show that is just like Punk'd except Ashton Kutcher is replaced by a Dateline reporter, and the celebrities who fall for the pranks are replaced by would-be child molestors who fall for undercover cops posing as children on the Internet. In short, it is endlessly overblown, melodramatic, and unintentionally amusing, like everything on Dateline. Basically, it's riveting in its stupidity.
In case you've never seen it, the best part is always when Chris Hansen comes out of hiding, and confronts the men who thought they were meeting a teenager. He always speaks to them with a tone of parental disapproval, stopping just short of saying, "Your mom and I are very disappointed in you." (Check out the clips
here). Naturally, on the show's website there are tips for parents about how to keep their kids safe on the Internet, all of which make the Internet seem like something that will burn you if you touch it. Either that, or they make it seem totally incomprehensible. For example, here's a sample from (I'm not kidding) Teen Lingo Decoded, a handy guide to "teen web chat language": 2NITE = Tonight B4 = Before KEWL = Cool OMG = Oh My God RU? = Are You? THX or THKS = Thanks And, of course: CIAO = Goodbye (In Italian) That last one is so Un-American, too. (Surprisingly, they forgot to list the most important teen lingo web chat acronym. The one that parents everywhere dread finding when they go through their child's personal, private IM conversations stored in the CyberNanny, that is: MIIMUN? = Mind if I molest you now?) God, if I were a parent, I would consult Dateline before doing anything even remotely like parenting.