You should read the story, but you can probably guess from the photo what has happened.
On a lark, high school gymnast Allison Stokke joined the track team as a pole vaulter. Not only did she get good at it, she broke five national records and was the 2004 California State High School Champion. That success even earned her a scholarship to the University of California. Still, she was far from a celebrity outside of the track and field world.
That changed early this May when a year-old photo of her at a meet began showing up all over the Internet. It started simply enough. A fan posted her picture on a UC message board. That photo was noticed by a popular New York sports blogger and he posted it. Next thing you know, her MySpace page had more than 1,000 messages waiting for her and a YouTube video of her at a track meet had recorded more than 150,000 views.
Now, she gets stared at, the phone is constantly ringing and she is getting interview requests from as far away as Brazil.
That may seem great to some, but for a 18-year-old A+ student who just wants to compete in her sport, it's scary -- particularly when you start to read the sexual comments that men are making about what they would like to do to her.
"Even if none of it is illegal, it just all feels really demeaning," Allison Stokke said. "I worked so hard for pole vaulting and all this other stuff, and it's almost like that doesn't matter. Nobody sees that. Nobody really sees me."A lot of young teen girls would die for this kind of attention and affirmation. They think it would be great if the world thought they were attractive and were constantly writing about them. But one look at what Allison is dealing with should give those girls pause.
She doesn't feel safe. She doesn't go out alone. Her father is constantly on the look out for stalkers. She is living in a fish bowl and feels like the world is staring in at her. And she's afraid that one of them might try and stick a net in and take her.
Warn your teens, in particular your girls. Allison didn't go looking for attention from the Internet, it found her. If your teen and pre-teen girls are posting pictures on the Internet, are playing in MySpace, you need to know what is on those pages and who is contacting your child.
But more importantly, you need to educate them about the beast that is the Internet. It has a collective consciousness that can develop unhealthy obsessions for attractive young women. And that obsession can jump from cyber-space to the real world. Teach them to be smart about what they post on the net because once it's out there, it's too late to take it back.
Just google "Amanda Wenk" if you don't believe me.
Yahoo.com seems to be feeding the fire a bit.
UPDATE: The Washington post covered this story and here is a little discussion about that coverage with reader reactions. The Debate: The Allison Stokke Story