TheSource

Predators and the art of trapping minors online

Posted in Cyberbullying and Online Safety by ginas876 on May 7, 2010

With social networking sites such as Facebook and Skype, making it easier for people to connect and meet online, comes a new breeding ground for sex offenders.

There was an interesting article ‘How I drew pedophiles into my internet trap,’ published in The Sydney Morning Herald on 23 June 2007, which exposed just how easy it was for a child to be preyed upon online.

Investigative journalist Martin Foley posed as a 14-year-old student on Skype to report on just how easy it was for sex offenders to find and communicate with a  minor. He was especially disturbed by the fact that within seconds of posting his profile, he was bombarded with  “requests for lewd photographs and offers by the predators to perform sex acts by webcam,” from all around the world.  The men were not deterred by the fact they were chatting to a 14-year-old girl, many of whom wanted to meet her in person.

To combat  this issue , the Australian Federal Government has proposed new laws which include penalties of up to 25 years jail for pedophiles who use the internet to prey on children or to be part of child pornography rings.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald article, ‘Online sex offenders to face more jail time,’ published on 4 February 2010, increasing child abuse online coincided with sophisticated technology and the ease with which predators can communicate with minors.

Under the new laws, the Australian Federal Police will also have the power to “confiscate encrypted computer hardware used to store child pornography.”

But is this enough to combat online child abuse?

A report released by the Internet Safety Technical Taskforce in the US interestingly found that  minors most at risk were those who “often engage in risky behaviors and have difficulties in other parts of their lives.” And the “psychosocial makeup of and family dynamics surrounding particular minors are better predictors of risk than the use of specific media or technologies.”

So it’s not the technology placing children at risk as the Australian Federal Police Commissioner Tony Negus was quoted in the article mentioned above, but it’s the circumstances of the children and their family dynamics.

This is why I’ve always thought parents and schools play a major role in educating children on the dangers of the internet and teach them how to stay safe online. Parents should continute to educate themselves about the technology their children are using and how this could pose as a risk for their children. Community service announcements reinforcing these messages are also important, and is something which is rarely seen on Australian television.

That, along with messages that remind children to be aware of the information they’re giving online, at the point of when they’re completing an online profile could all act as further safety measures that need to be in place to keep children safe.

References

AAP (2010) Online sex offenders face more jail time  Accessed at http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-national/online-sex-offenders-face-more-jail-time-20100204-nelh.html

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University (2008) Enhancing Child Safety and Online Technologies: Final Report of the Internet Safety Technical Taskforce to the multi-state working group on Social Networking of State Attoryney’s General of the United States. Access at http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/pubrelease/isttf/

Foley, M (2007), ‘How I drew pedophiles into my internet trap’, The Sydney Morning Herald. Accessed at http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2007/06/22/1182019367379.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap2

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