Children, Sex, And The Net
1 In 4 Children Who've Gone Online Have Been Solicited 1 In 5 Has Been Sent Provocative Pics Thru Web Contact 725,000 Have Been Asked To Meet For Sexual Purposes
CBS - A new Internet study is Congress' first official confirmation of what most kids already know: Go into an online chat room and someone will ask you for sex, especially if you're a young girl.
The report, submitted to Congress Thursday, adds to our knowledge of life in the gutter of the Information Superhighway.
More than 15,000 young people, aged 10 to 17, were asked about their Internet experiences. And, as CBS News Correspondent Wyatt Andrews reports, their stories confirm that opening the door to a cyber-sex predator takes nothing more than a mouse-click.
"If you're 13, that's when the more older guys start coming on," says Nicole Toro, a 16-year-old high school sophomore. "'Oh, can we talk,' all this stuff, 'What's your name?'."
"It's cyber sex," says Alicia Pow, another sophomore. "Probably some 50-year-old fat man sitting there."
With an estimated 24 million children now online, the study says one out of five have been solicited for sex in the last year. One in four were sent pictures of people who were naked or having sex. Perhaps most alarming, an estimated 725,000 children have been "agressively" asked for sex, meaning the request came with an offer to meet in person.
When 18-year-old Katie Tarbox was 14 she was molested by a man she befriended online in an AOL chat room.
"I logged on to a teen chat room and began talking with a 23-year-old Mark from Los Angeles, California," Tarbox said of her first encounter in 1995. "We had typical teen-age conversations about clothes, music, current trends in society. He made it seem like we had a lot of common interests."
She said on CBS News' The Early Show that their relationship began to get dangerous after about five months when the man kept on pressuring for a one-on-one meeting.
Tarbox said she agreed to meet with him at a hotel room in Dallas, where she was to compete in a national swim meet.
"I wasn't afraid or scared. I wanted to go see him," said the New Canaan, Conn., native, who has written a book, - My Story," and created a Web site to share her experience. "He called me in my hotel room and I went down to his and there I learned that Mark wasn't really 23 but a 41-year-old pedophile. I learned that after he molested me in the hotel room."
Fortunately for Tarbox, her mother was tipped off by her daughter's friend on the secret meeting and was able to rescue Tarbox from the convicted pedophile.
Tarbox pressed charges and the man from California, Francis John Kufrovic, was convicted under the 1996 Communications Decency Act.
Last year the FBI and local police investigated almost 800 cases where sexual predators not only found children online, they then tried to arrange a meeting.
"This is a problem that's going to get worse from the standpoint of potential victims," says FBI special agent Peter Gulotta, "because we have more and more of our children with access to the Internet."
In fact, it's possible the survey understates the threat to children because, the survey says, most children don't tell when they've been approached.
"Kids are reluctant to tell," Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said Friday on The Early Show. "They are afraid their parents will overreact, afraid the parents will pull the plug and take the privileges away. It's important we get parents and kids to talk about the problem."
"I laugh at it, I don't pay attention," said one girl.
Allen said there is a false sense of security for parents, who feel that as long as their children are on-line they are doing something positive and constructive.
"Kids tend to know about this stuff, but we found that the kids didn't tell their parents very often," said David Finkelhor, the report's author.
The report urges parents to learn more about the software that, in some cases, can block pornography from reaching a child's email. Other experts argue for a very simple rule for young children: no personal information on the Web.

Spare the Net, Spoil the Child?
(AOL and Child Predators) Internet Case Study #2
By Steve Gilliard
From Ken McCarthy < 6-13-00
It's late, 12:50 at night and I'm watching the rebroadcast of Oprah. Usually, I don't and I have no love of Oprah, per se. But tonight, they're talking about child sexual predators...
While the (guest expert) is a bit clueless, and Oprah following along in her footsteps is kind of obvious, there is a serious point: child sexual predators lurk online and they harm children. Kids also get sex spam daily.
What is missing from the media conversation, hell what is critical to understand, is that this is a limited problem. Not in scope. It's a problem with a wide scope. But it has one source: AOL. America Online has allowed the words "the Internet" to coopt a problem that largely exists in their service. AOL is a breeding ground for sexual predators. Every story of "internet" child molestation starts at one place -- AOL. It is in their chat rooms, in their Instant Messages and their spam-ladened e-mail which has become home to all manner and shape of perverts.
Chat rooms are EXCLUSIVE to AOL. They exist NOWHERE else online. You can chat with ICQ or IRC, but it's not the same. Only AOL has a dominant position in open chat online. This is NOT an internet problem. For the most part kid-friendly websites and e-mail do not attract pedophiles. There are Usenet groups they frequent, but Usenet is not all that interactive. And you can post to Usenet with a fake address.
Also, on most websites, your chat is not nearly as fast as with AOL. Then there is the fact that you usually log on to these sites seperately. You can create a log in name and seperate identity and e-mail which will not be traced to your main account. Once you're on AOL, you're open to anyone on AOL. Can people chat outside AOL? Sure. Can they IM? Sure. But AOL makes all of these instant locator and e-mail services available.
On one hand, the company freely squashes the rights of users, releases their personal information, and assumes that they will work for free to enhance the value of their services. Yet, they do little, if anything, to prevent the widespread use of their services, not only as a prime hunting ground for child sexual predators, but for meetings and file exchanges among these people as well.
What does AOL do? Admit that they are the pedophile's favorite hunting ground? Whole communities of child molesters exist there and hunt children. Not in minutes, but in seconds. It's grown men and mostly teenage girls. Now, AOL knows this happens. Just the words "Chat Room" says AOL like Budweiser says Anheiser-Busch. They are also fully aware, as anyone who reads a newspaper could tell them, that bad things happen there. Not all the time, but enough.
The fact is that until AOL is sued repeatedly in Northern Virginia and have to face those juries of middle class minorities and retired army officers, they are not going to change their policies if it costs them a dime. You have to protect your own kids. What AOL won't tell you...
1) Don't use AOL.
While AOL is the simple solution to going online, their intergrated chat and IM are a simple playground for men who want to date your 12 year old. Chat and IM are only part of the web experience. Most people don't use them. And now that IM is independent of AOL, your kids can use it and not have an AOL address. Any other service will allow your kids access to e-mail, the web and even instant messages, but, without the AOL address you will avoid a bunch of spam and the hunting ground that AOL has become.
2) Sex websites may give your kid a peek, but it's like Playboy, worry less about the pictures than what you teach your kids about sex.
There are positive and non-erotic websites which teach about sex, but the dirtier the website, the more it costs. As long as your children don't have access to your credit card, you're safe. Is there sex online? Sure. But the odds are you read Playboy or saw a porn film and it didn't kill you. There is so many other things that your kid is more likely to spend time online for that sex is overrated as a concern. Same with making bombs. I learned that the old fashioned way -- reading books.
3) Use web-based chat on sites with passwords over service- based chats.
It is far safer to use a web-based chat, one where you can create a seperate password and identity, complete with a fake e-mail address, than one connected to your real e-mail address.
4) Don't be misled.
There are hundreds of websites designed for kids and I have yet to hear a report of them being used to track down kids. It's much harder using the web to do that than AOL integrated services.
5) Limit who gets your kid's e-mail address.
If they have to give an address, create one for the family and have the mail filtered into one central box everyone can use. Reserve the personal e-mail for friends you know or school work.
6) Place the computer in a central location or network them, so you can have access to your kids hard drive.
Networking solutions are cheap and it is a lot easier than any user based filter. You can also monitor their work assignments and website visits.
7) Most of all: learn how the internet works.
You have to know how to use the machine. You cannot leave this in your kids hands. That is a bad idea, no, a really stupid idea. Computers are easy to learn and there are books the size and shape of coloring books which can teach you.
This is why you, the adult, has to know how to use a computer: Sam Manzie was a 14 year old boy living in Central New Jersey. He liked AOL and he met a buddy on chat. The problem was this "buddy" was a 41-year-old fat slob who liked to fuck young boys.
Without his parents knowledge, Sam managed to get to Long Island, where the slob lived, and where the slob repeatedly sodomized him. The parents found out and the cops tried to use this poor kid in a sting. But being 14 and a victim of sexual abuse, his brains were as fried as an Irish breakfast. So he backed out of the sting, and now being confused and angry, he started acting out.
One Saturday, a 12 year old kid, Eddie Werner, was doing the school charity thing, knocking on doors. One of the last things he did was knock on Sam Manzie's door. Sam took this kid, beat him, raped him and killed him. Now, Sam is serving life in jail.
You have a choice: you can be a technophobe, accept AOL's crappy service and indifferent monitoring of child molesters or you can be proactive and protect your kids from tragedy. The choice is yours.
-- Steve Gilliard,
NetSlave Media Assassin

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