The issue of online sexual predators remains a major concern for law enforcement and parents across the nation. Now, actor David Schwimmer, of "Friends" fame, is making viewers think about the issue a little more closely. He's the director of a movie called "Trust," about a 14-year-old girl who meets an online predator.Schwimmer said on "The Early Show" he was drawn to the subject of the film because of his work over the past 14 years with The Rape Foundation in California. He's been on the organization's board of directors for 10 years.
"I've met countless child victims of rape and sexual assault, and their families, and befriended some of the counselors there and members of the FBI that have worked to solve these crimes," he said. "I was just really inspired by some of these victims and their families, their stories and really moved by the idea of trying to tell this story through, in particular, the lens of the father/daughter relationship, where Clive Owen plays the father, and this wonderful actress Liana Liberato plays the daughter."
Co-anchor Erica Hill said the movie shows a family that is doing everything they're supposed to to protect their daughter - learn the online lingo, watch over a child's shoulder - but in the end, it turns out it's not enough.
Hemanshu Nigam, a former Internet child crimes prosecutor, said, "The biggest thing to take away from the movie, and David actually did a great job of putting Hollywood in touch perfectly with the reality of what happens in these situations. In this situation, she's becoming an at-risk teenager. Her father is working too much, even though it appears that he's not. Her brother is about to go to college. She's not fitting in with the cool girls in the school. She wants to be on the volleyball team and she's struggling. What you see from an online predator perspective is 'Oh, hone in on that kid because that kid needs attention' and they'll shower them with attention and eventually their goal is to say, 'Let's meet somewhere.' And from Annie's perspective, she's not meeting a stranger. She's meeting a friend, in her mind, a true friend or a boyfriend."
Hill asked, "How often does something like that, though, just going to meet a 'friend,' how often does it turn into something like rape?"
Nigam said the statistics are all different because of the status of the person they're meeting, if they're a stranger or a friend; but he said, it's very much like in the real world.
"It's an adult who does this in the real world, and it's called 'grooming' in the exact same way," he said. "They do it online ... it's no different than being part of what's happening in today's world, which is, it's another avenue for a predator to reach your children. If they're at risk, that's when you have to be paying particular attention."
Parents are trying to keep up and navigate this new world with "very muddy waters," Hill said.
Schwimmer said that's why he wanted to make the movie.
"It's really about parenting in the age of technology," he said. "And it covers cyberbullying, which we're seeing more and more common, and sexting, and also the sexualization of younger and younger children in advertising. So it really covers a broad, broad range of topics. But mostly it's about trying to be a good parent today."
And it's something Schwimmer is concerned about these days because he's expecting his first child in two months.
He said, "I'm certainly growing more and more concerned about how am I going to parent? How am I going to limit what I call, you know, screen time? You know, with kids always looking at one kind of screen or another, whether it's an iPhone, an iPad, a computer screen, a TV, a game console. And instead of looking up and looking at people, we're learning to socialize more like this, into a different kind of socialization. And I'm certainly concerned about that as a parent-to-be."
Hill said the movie reminds people of the importance of talking to their kids.
"That's the whole thing," Schwimmer said. "We just want people to engage more in being a more present parent. If you don't know every friend that your child is talking to on Facebook, you should. You wouldn't let them go ... you wouldn't let Sally go sleep over at someone's house that you haven't met. You haven't met the friend. You haven't met the parents. So just make sure you know who Sally is talking to."
But is there something you can do as a parent to monitor your kid's activity beyond talking to them?
Nigam said there's software out there that will help parents watch their kids online.
"In today's technology world there's software for everything. And there is," he said. "You can monitor everything they're doing. At the end of the day, as parents - and I have four kids myself - we have no more excuses like throwing up our hands and saying, 'Technology, I don't get it.' What you have to do is say to your own kids, 'You are my best technology educator, you're in my house, teach me how this world works' and while that's happening, have a safety lesson. It's very much like we do as parents in the real world. When I got a skateboard from my father, the first thing he said was 'You're going to go down that hill, but make sure no cars are coming. Make sure you're going to be protected on your head. Watch out for this.' When you give them the next device, whether it's the iPhone or whatever fancy device is that's coming out, you have to have that conversation while the gift wrap is coming off."
There's plenty of spyware, too, Schwimmer said. He said parents can do all they can, but keeping the lines of communication open is the key because kids will eventually find access if they want it.
He said, "Have a relationship where the kids can come to you and say, 'This is what I'm doing, this is who I'm talking to. This is something weird that happened to me.'"
"Trust" opens in five cities on April 1.