When children go online, they have direct and immediate access to friends, family, and complete strangers, which can put unsuspecting children at great risk. Children who meet and communicate with strangers online are easy prey for Internet predators. Predators have easy and anonymous access to children online where they can conceal their identity and roam without limit. Often, we have an image of sexual predators lurking around school playgrounds or hiding behind bushes scoping out their potential victims, but the reality is that today’s sexual predators search for victims while hiding behind a computer screen, taking advantage of the anonymity the Internet offers.
Child Sexual Abuse: Putting the Problem in Context Research indicates that 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually victimized before adulthood; sadly, 30-40% of these victims are abused by a family member and 50% are abused by someone outside the family whom they know and trust. Although the majority of this child sexual abuse does not occur online, in the Internet age, offline sex abuse is fueled by pedophiles' unprecedented access to child pornography and exacerbated as perpetrators post pictures online of their exploits.1
What is Pornography?An Introduction:
Pornography has become increasingly acceptable, accessible, and freely available, and it is one of the biggest threats to our children’s online safety. Today, any child with unrestricted Internet access is just a mouse click away from viewing, either intentionally or accidentally, sexually explicit material online, from adult pornography (the kind of images that appear in Playboy) to prosecutable material depicting graphic sex acts, live sex shows, orgies, bestiality, and violence. Even material depicting the actual sexual abuse of a child (child pornography)—once only found on the black market—is instantly available and accessible on the Internet. Through the Internet, much of this aberrant material has entered the mainstream, directly impacting our children’s healthy sexual development.
“In 1993, when Internet pornography became public, there was this huge shift; that protective barrier between the sex industry and youth dissolved. There used to be restricted movie houses, order catalogues with brown paper that came in the mail, and all those types of things, where a youth had a difficult time, if not impossible time, accessing pornography. Now, through the Internet, if you have the Internet, you have pornography in your home.”
— Jill Manning, Ph.D., Marriage and Family Therapist
Pornography can be thought of as all sexually explicit material intended primarily to arouse the reader, viewer, or listener. The United States Supreme Court has said that there are four categories of pornography that can be determined illegal, which include: indecency, material harmful to minors, obscenity, and child pornography.
obscenity, and child pornography.
1. Indecent material includes messages or pictures on telephone, radio, or broadcast TV that are patently offensive descriptions or depictions of sexual or excretory organs or activities. It is often referred to as “sexual nudity” and “dirty words.”
2. Material harmful to minors (HTM ) represents nudity or sex that has prurient appeal for minors, is offensive and unsuitable for minors, and lacks serious value for minors. There are “harmful to minors” laws in every state.
3 Obscenity (“hard-core pornography”) is graphic material that focuses on sex and/or sexual violence. It includes close-ups of graphic sex acts, lewd exhibition of the genitals, and deviant activities such as group sex, bestiality, torture, incest, and excretory functions. There are federal obscenity laws that criminalize distribution of obscenity on the Internet, but they have not been vigorously enforced.
4. Child pornography is material that visually depicts children under the age of 18 engaged in actual or simulated sexual activity, including lewd exhibition of the genitals.
*It is ALWAYS illegal to produce, distribute, or possess child pornography in the United States!*
Social Media: Introduction
In the online world, social networking sites have become a predominant forum for kids to present themselves, seek approval, and describe their interests. One of the defining features of most social networking pages is the visual and audio clutter; these sites often look like over-decorated high school yearbooks or scrapbooks. Teens use these pages as a place to feature everything in their heads and hearts that they want people to know about. The central feature of these sites is the ability to connect with people and share information.
What is a social networking site?
- Social networking sites are virtual communities.
- Kids convene on these sites to chat, IM, post pictures, and blog (journal).
- They appeal to teens because they provide instant community, instant celebrity, and encompass so many of the online tools and entertainment activities that teens know and love.
- They provide access to real-time and asynchronous communication features; blogging tools; photo-, music-, and video-sharing features; and the ability to post original creative work—all linked to a unique profile that can be customized and updated on a regular basis.
“People go on the site; they share photos of themselves and their friends. Maybe they went on a trip somewhere and they put pictures up about it. They blog about it–meaning they talk about it. They have comments on their pictures that people leave and they look for other friends. They can explore content, comedy, movies, bands… so not only is it about users putting information on the site; it’s also getting information on the site.”
— Hemanshu Nigam, Former Chief Security Officer, Fox Interactive Media and MySpace