Crime against children on the internet is growing fast; and yet, the problem is going largely unnoticed and underreported. Current statistics show that one in five children who use the Internet receive unwanted sexual solicitations. This might not seem like much stated that way, but, its more than five million children. While it is easy to dismiss this as a simple reality of the Internet it fails to knock home the more important reality that if a child is exposed to behavior they are not ready to handle it could have an overall negative impact on their entire life. This is the real issue.
“The Internet is just like the real world. There are bad neighborhoods and good neighborhoods. Parents need to know what can happen and that bad people are coming into their homes.”
James Doyle, Retired NYPD
Another sinister aspect of the Internet is the explosion of pornography being directed at children. When most adult’s think of pornography they think of “nudie” pictures they might have gotten their hands on as a teenager. Certainly innocent and hardly damaging to a teenager. But on the Internet, we are talking “child pornography”. Frankly I have yet to meet a person who has seen a real example of child pornography. I am sad to admit, however, that I saw my first “kiddy porn” picture at a law enforcement conference I attended. The picture was so shocking (a three year old) that it would be impossible for me to describe my own reaction adequately. Let’s just say the hair on the back of my head stood up. How big is the problem? Big enough that the second largest operation of the FBI is its “Innocent Images” program; it’s second only to the terrorism operation. The program is a major effort to reduce or eliminate the distribution of child pornography on the Internet.
“One determined parent is more than a match for the individual predator”.
Detective Mike Sullivan,
Safety Monitor—How to Protect your Kids Online
As I write this, less than 5 percent of parents are aware of online sexual exploitation and fewer think their child is at risk (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).
The message is not getting to the parents. This in spite of the simple reality that 1000s of children each month are agreeing to meetings with anonymous strangers they meet online. More often than anyone would like to imagine these strangers are not another teenager but an adult aged 25-45. What makes the problem so sinister is that the majority of these “perpetrators” are adults with no previous criminal record. They are, however, frequently teachers, coaches, clergy and others who chose their profession so they could be around kids. It is a myth that this kind of perpetrator of crimes against children is a “gnarly old pervert sitting in his underwear while using a computer.”
The Internet is a wonderful asset that is certain to change for the better the lives of our children. It is opening up worlds of information that was never before available. At the same time it is a fertile hunting ground for pedophiles and purveyors of child pornography. Now is the time for law enforcement, the media, schools and teachers to bring this problem into the public awareness and to educate parents on the ways to combat this problem. One effective solution is to have teachers post information about the problem on their school home pages. This is the place where parents come to determine how their children are doing in the classroom. A national initiative of this nature would place the information on the web pages of hundreds of thousands of existing web pages that are visited often by parents. Now is the time for all interested parties to join the effort to eliminate the problem, and time for teachers to do what they do best–educate.
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