While online computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children and adults, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, they can also be exposed to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information highway. In some cases, there are individuals who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of online services and the internet. Some of these individuals gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money, and energy in this process. They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to gradually lower children’s inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations.
There are other individuals, however, who immediately engage in sexually explicit conversation with children. Some offenders primarily collect and trade child-pornographic images, while others seek face-to-face meetings with children via online contacts. It is important for parents to understand that children can be indirectly victimized through conversation, i.e. “chat,” as well as the transfer of sexually explicit information and material. Computer-sex offenders may also be evaluating children they come in contact with online for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization. Parents and children should remember that a computer-sex offender can be any age or sex. The person does not have to fit the caricature of a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing a raincoat to be someone who could harm a child.
Children, especially adolescents, are sometimes interested in and curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be moving away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish new relationships outside their family. Because they may be curious, children/adolescents sometimes use their online access to actively seek out such materials and individuals. Sex offenders targeting children will use and exploit these characteristics and needs. Some adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured by online offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless, they have been seduced and manipulated by a clever offender and do not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of these contacts.
The following guidelines were prepared as tools to keep your children and family safe when using the internet. Further information on protecting your child on-line may be found in the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Child Safety, or the Federal Bureau of Investigations Website. Courtesy of Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Internet Safety Tips
The following rules are suggested by The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and endorsed by the New Jersey State Police.
For additional information visit the NJ State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit
- I will not give out personal information such as my address, telephone number, parents' work address/telephone number, or the name and location of my school without my parents' permission.
- I will tell my parents right away if I come across any information that makes me feel uncomfortable.
- I will never agree to get together with someone that I "meet" online without first checking with my parents. If my parents agree to the meeting, I will be sure that it is in a public place and bring my mother or father along.
- I will never send a person my picture or anything else without first checking with my parents.
- I will not respond to any messages that are mean or in any way make me feel uncomfortable. It is not my fault if I get a message like that. If I do, I will tell my parents right away so that they can contact the online service.
- I will talk with my parents so that we can set up rules for going online. We will decide upon the time of day that I can be online, the length of time I can be online, and appropriate areas for me to visit. I will not access other areas or break these rules without their permission.
- Don't give out personal information about yourself, your family situation, your school, your telephone number, or your address.
- If you become aware of the sharing, use, or viewing of child pornography on line, immediately report this to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 800-843-5678.
- When in chat rooms remember that not everyone may be who they say they are. For example a person who says "she" is a 14-year-old girl from New York may really be a 42-year-old man from California.
- If someone harasses you online, says anything inappropriate, or does anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, contact your Internet service provider.
- Know that there are rules many Internet Service Providers (ISP) have about online behavior. If you disobey an ISP's rules, your ISP may penalize you by disabling your account, and sometimes every account in a household, either temporarily or permanently.
- Consider volunteering at your local library, school, or Boys and Girls Club to help younger children online. Many schools and nonprofit organizations are in need of people to help set up their computers and Internet capabilities.
- A friend you meet online may not be the best person to talk to if you are having problems at home, with your friends, or at school - remember the teenage "girl" from New York in Tip number three? If you can't find an adult in your school, church, club, or neighborhood to talk to, Covenant House is a good place to call at 800-999-9999. The people there provide counseling to kids, refer them to local shelters, help them with law enforcement, and can serve as mediators by calling their parents.
- If you are thinking about running away, a friend from online (remember the 14-year-old girl) may not be the best person to talk to. If there is no adult in your community you can find to talk to, call the National Runaway Switchboard at 800-621-4000. Although some of your online friends may seem to really listen to you, the Switchboard will be able to give you honest, useful answers to some of your questions about what to do when you are depressed, abused, or thinking about running away.