A Real Danger
According to federal law enforcement authorities, there
is an unprecedented growth in child pornography in the United
States because of the Internet. The Internet provides child
sexual predators with virtually undetectable means of sending
and receiving illicit images of children.
Because of its anonymity, rapid transmission, and unsupervised
nature, the Internet has become the venue of choice for predators
who transmit and receive child pornography.
Before the Internet, pedophiles and child predators targeted
children in parks and playgrounds, offering ice cream or
candy to gain the child’s trust. Today the virtual
playground of cyberspace affords these sexual predators the
opportunity to engage children in anonymous exchanges that
can lure the child into sexual conversations and sexual contact.
Child predators hide behind the anonymity of the Internet
to become whoever and whatever best serves the ultimate objective;
face-to-face contact with a child. Once a child is lured
into meeting the predator, the predator’s pornographic
fantasies turns into the parents’ greatest fear – criminal
exploitation of their child, or worse.
Trolling Chat Rooms
Internet chat rooms may provide the greatest opportunity
for sexual exploitation of children. Most sexual predators
troll chat rooms featuring subjects that attract children
and teenagers such as music, sports, or fashion, often disguising
themselves as a peer.
Parents should keep the family computer in a central location
where the child is not isolated, limit the time the child
spends online, set guidelines and rules for computer use,
and learn about Internet technology in order to better monitor
their child’s online activity.
Parents should help their children identify inappropriate
communications and stress to their children that people encountered
in chat rooms are strangers and that the same rules apply
to cyberspace strangers as to those encountered in the real
world. Important information parents should know includes:
- Teach your child to NEVER give out identifying information
(name, address, age, city or state) in a message posted
to in a chat room or bulletin board or e-mail.
- Stay aware of file-sharing applications, giving kids
the ability of distributed peer to peer file sharing
of text, pictures, music, video and programs. Kids
who use these file sharing applications sometime enter
their names, addresses, vacation information, school
and hobby information, and personal photos and don’t
generally think that when they send this information
to a friend or acquaintance, they are making it available
to millions of strangers all over the world. Some popular
file-sharing applications are Xanga, Limewire, Morpheus,
Kazaa, Shareaza, Gnutella, Zultarx, WinMX, and Badblue.
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting
with another computer use without parental permission,
and then only in a public area with a parent present.
- Teach your child to NEVER respond to online messages
or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent,
threatening, or which make you feel uncomfortable. Encourage
your children to tell you if they encounter such messages.
If your child receives a message that is harassing, sexual
in nature, or threatening, forward a copy of the message
to your Internet Service Provider and ask for their assistance.
- If you suspect that your child is engaging in inappropriate
activity on the computer, confront the situation immediately.
High-risk behavior on the computer allows predators access
to your children in your home. In cases prosecuted here
in Will County, child predators have gone from chatting
online to showing up in their vehicle in a matter of hours.
Since predators won't hesitate to confront your child,
you can't hesitate either.
- Again, don't allow the child to have a computer in their
room - place their computer in a room in the house where
everyone can see what's on the screen. Sunlight is the
best disinfectant, as they say.
- Talk to your children about the use of a "webcam" -
webcams are the tool of choice for Internet predators looking
for child victims. Your children should never use the webcam
with an adult, and should never turn on the webcam for
anyone who doesn’t have a webcam themselves.
This eliminates a child predator posing as a peer from
confirming your child's age and appearance.
- If your child receives a picture, movie or live performance
that depicts an individual or individuals actually under
18 years of age engaging in any of the following activities,
you should contact your local law enforcement agency:
- appearing to engage in sexual penetration or
sexual contact with another individual;
- depicted masturbating, urinating, defecating,
in bondagein any sexual
- nude or transparently clothed and in a "lewd
genitals, breast or buttocks
(This information is to be utilized as an aid to the
public and should NOT be considered legal advice about
what constitutes child pornography. The legal definition
for child pornography can be found in 720 ILCS 5/11-20.1)
- If you feel your child is a victim of cyber-stalking,
or your child receives a specific threat (someone is going
to hurt someone in a specific way on/at a specific time/place),
law enforcement should be contacted.
For more information on Internet Safety, visit www.netsmartz.org or www.isafe.org.
Cyberfilters –Their Use and Limits
Filtering software works by automatically filtering pornographic,
predatory and sexually explicit material from your computer.
Many protect phone, address, and credit card numbers from
being given out. In addition, the software looks for objectionable
language and blocks sites containing that language.
- Filtering options are not fool-proof. They may not
block all objectionable materials and may prevent access
to sites approved by parents. They are simply one step
in providing a line of defense against cyber predators.
Parents should be aware that the child sexual predator,
or even the child, may find ways to bypass the blocking
software and even though the software has been installed
on their home computer, there is no guarantee that
filtering software in installed on friends or public
computers. Parents should be aware of their child’s
use of computers other than at home and encourage their
child to return home from any situation that violates
their sense of appropriate behavior, makes them uncomfortable,
and/or breaks the rules for computer use at home.
- Get to know the methods to block access to objectionable
material available from the Internet Service Provider
that your child uses. Popular security software are
Cyber Sentinal and Network Nanny. Spectorsoft.com will
monitor your child’s
activity on the Internet and will monitor keystrokes
or take pictures and will send this information to
the parent at a pre-scheduled time and place. Keep
in mind that child predators are usually quite creative
computer hackers and will find ways to inform kids
on how to disable these products, so parents should
regularly make sure that these applications are enabled.
For more information on child Internet safety visit www.whitehouse.gov.
Parent & Child Agreement
Parents may want to implement an Agreement to Abide by the
Rules and post that agreement near the computer. The National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children offers the following
as appropriate rules:
- I will not give out any personal information such
as my address, city, state, phone number, parent’s
work address or phone number, or the name of my school
without my parents permission.
- I will not try to win free things or buy things on the
Internet without asking my parents permission and I will
have them monitor the purchase. If I get a message that
I won something I will show it to my parents.
- I will tell my parents right away if I come across any
information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
- I will never agree to get together with someone I “meet” online
without first checking with my parents. If my parents
agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in
a public place and bring my mother or father with me.
- I will never send a person my picture or anything else
without first checking with my parents.
- I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in
anyway make me feel uncomfortable. I will remember that
it is not my fault if I get a message like that and I will
tell my parents right away so they can contact the Internet
- My parents have permission to look on the computer
to see what sites I have visited on the Internet and
the content of my emails and text messages I have sent
and received and what I do in chat rooms.
- If my parents install programs that track what I do or
limit where I go online, I will not turn those programs
How to Check Where the Kids Have Been
Below are four steps that parents can use to check what
sites their child has visited on the Internet:
- Click on the “My Computer” icon;
- Click on the “(C:)” icon;
- Click on the “Windows” folder;
- Click on four folders to view the sites accessed with
“Temporary Internet Files”