on the Internet
M. E. Kabay, PhD, CISSP-ISSMP
Professor of Computer Information Systems
Norwich University, Northfield, VT
This is the opening column in a series
devoted to how ordinary people can protect themselves against threats involving
the Internet as a mechanism for abuse.
Children, parents and teachers face a new area of danger: the Internet. This
course will review the dangers that people can meet on the Internet and then
examine some of the technology that is helpful in preventing harm.
Let's start with pedophiles. Pedophilia is defined as sexual arousal in response
to contact with or images of prepubescent children. Some pedophiles misrepresent
themselves as youngsters in chat rooms or via e-mail and trick children into
forming friendships with what they believe are peers. In one notorious case,
a 47-year-old man misrepresented himself as a 15 year-old boy in e-mail to a
12-year old girl in New Jersey. The victim's mother stumbled onto a package
from her daughter to a man she didn't know because the child had put the wrong
postage on it. On the video tape inside, she found that her little girl had
been cavorting naked in front of the family video camera.
In June 2000, child safety experts warned the U.S. congressional committee
on child online protection that with the average of age of online users declining
(children between the ages of two and seven are among the fastest growing user
cohorts on the Internet), children increasingly are put at risk by their careless
or ignorant online activities. The committee heard that 3,000 children were
kidnapped in the U.S. last year after responding to online messages posted by
their abductors. A recent survey of teenage girls found 12% had agreed to meet
strangers who'd contacted them online.
Practical recommendations for parents and others for protecting children
against online pedophiles:
- Explain the dangers of communicating with strangers via the 'Net in the
same terms that you discuss the dangers of talking to strangers anywhere else.
- Alert children to the questionable identity of anyone they meet exclusively
through the 'Net or via e-mail. Discuss the possibility that people are not
what they claim to be in their online persona.
- Establish a calm atmosphere so that kids will not fear your reactions if
they are troubled by what they encounter online. Worst of all would be to
punish a child for reporting a disturbing incident.
- Tell children not to give their address or their pictures to strangers they
- Discuss online relationships in a friendly and open way at home. Show interest
in the new friends without expressing hostility or suspicion; ask to participate
in some of the online chats and e-mail correspondence. Invite your children
to sit in with you during your own online interactions.
- Parents should talk to the their child's new online friends’ parents by
phone and, eventually, in person before allowing contacts.
- Any attempt to induce a child to meet the correspondent alone or secretly
should be reported to local police authorities for investigation.
- Suggestions that children engage in virtual sex play or sexual fantasies
should be reported to parents right away.
- Making, transmitting and storing child pornography is a felony; report all
such cases to local police authorities at once.
- Children receiving a request for anything unusual (for example, a request
for a piece of clothing) should immediately report the incident to their parents.
"Child pornography." < http://www.fbi.gov/contact/fo/detroit/crimes2.htm
"FBI warns of child exploitation." < http://broadcast.webpoint.com/wphl/cybersafe/cybersafe_fbi.htm
"In plain site: Pedophiles online, How to protect children." <
"Internet safety: Warning signs." < http://www.fbi.gov/contact/fo/norfolk/intnet.htm
"Parents can protect their children from child predators roaming the
Internet: Six simple guidelines." < http://www.yellodyno.com/html/inetpeds.html >
"When to call the FBI." < http://broadcast.webpoint.com/wphl/cybersafe/cybersafe_fbi2.htm
Children's Protection and Advocacy Coalition < http://www.thecpac.com/index3.html >
Gado, M. (2000). "Pedolphiles and child molesters: The slaugher of
innocence." < http://www.crimelibrary.com/serial/pedophiles/
Guarding Our Children's Innocence Against Pedophiles. < http://modena.intergate.ca/personal/ranubis/
Kincaid, J. R. (2000). "Hunting pedophiles on the Net: Is the truth
about cybercrimes against children tamer than fiction?" < http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2000/08/24/cyber_menace/
Lovell, J. (2001). "Pedophiles flooding British Internet chat rooms."
Monahan, M. A. (date unknown). "Protecting children from pedophiles."
< http://www.afn.org/~monica/ >
Ratliff, L. (1997). "Online stalking and pedophiles: Protect yourself
and your family." < http://www.carteret.com/children/ >