Gentlereaders: There is widespread speculation regarding child sex predators on the internet. Some of the accounts seem to be purely sensational and exploitative.
The Library of Congress just released (October, 2009) a bibliography and summation of the research. While not speaking for the Library of Congress, please note that methodologically correct (well done) research can still reach the wrong conclusions and misstate a problem
But if correct, the bibliography indicates that the problem of sexual exploitation of minors via the internet is a harsh reality that many of us (especially parents) choose to ignore.
The data indicates that if we ignore the problem, we place our children at great risk. Some suggest that the majority of child sex offenders will never come to the attention of law enforcement. The time for age appropriate, continuous conversations with your children is now.
Crime in America.Net staff.
Internet Crimes Against Children: An Annotated Bibliography of Major Studies
A year-long survey conducted in 2001 of 129 Internet-initiated sex crimes involving victims age 17 or younger found that face-to-face meetings had occurred in 74 percent of the cases, and 93 percent of those encounters had included sexual contact. Seventy-five percent of the victims were girls.
A large majority of the victims who responded to the survey had willingly met and had sexual encounters with the predators.
Whereas adults generally use technology only as a tool, adolescents consider technology, including text messaging and chat rooms, to be an essential part of their social life.
The committee found that the number of sexually explicit images of children on the Internet was increasing, and that victims were typically younger and the images more violent than in previous years.
At the time the report was written, it was estimated that Web sites hosted in the United States accounted for more than half of the child pornography on the Internet, and that commercially available child pornography on the Internet comprised a multibillion-dollar per year industry.
A survey of more than 1,000 teens and young adults conducted in 2008 and reported by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy revealed that 20 percent of the teens had sent or posted nude or seminude pictures or video of themselves, and 11 percent of young adolescent girls (ages 13 to 16) had done so.
Researchers looked at the role parents and other caregivers can play in preventing children from becoming victims of Internet crime, emphasizing that better education programs are needed and that strong communication between adults and children is critical.
The study found that parents generally underestimate their children’s exposure to negative material on the Internet, when in fact children encounter negative content frequently.
Researchers studied the role that law enforcement can play in prosecuting online predators and evaluated the effectiveness of their investigations. Brown, in his guide for prosecutors seeking to prosecute online predators, recommends that law enforcement officers acquire probative evidence against the perpetrator, collecting and preserving all evidence of grooming (preparing children for sexual exploitation), such as pornography.
See full report at http://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/228813.pdf