The advent of the internet created a new tool for child-pornography collectors, traders and manufacturers to sexually exploit children. Prior to the digital age, child pornographers relied on physical exchanges or the U.S. mail system to gain access to illegal material. The internet provided an instant, somewhat anonymous, at-home vehicle for these individuals to meet one another, trade files, and access children to victimize.
What is Child Pornography?
Under Federal Law, child pornography is defined as a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture, or painting, photograph, film, video, or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means of sexually explicit conduct. It is illegal to possess, distribute, or manufacture these images.
What is Child Internet Enticement?
Online enticement is the use of the internet to entice, invite, or persuade a child to meet for sexual acts or to help arrange a meeting is a serious offense. Predators have used e-mail, instant messaging, bulletin boards, and chat areas to gain a child’s confidence and then arrange a face-to-face meeting. This sometimes leads to the child traveling to meet the person he or she is chatting with or the person traveling to meet the child. Sometimes the other person is an adult whose intent is to have sex with the child.
Is your child at risk?
Many children who fall victim to Internet sex offenders spend large amounts of time online, particularly in chat rooms. They may go online after dinner and on weekends and would rather spend time online than “hang out” with other peers from their school or neighborhood. Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for lowering the child’s inhibitions.
Examples of signs to look out for:
- Your child receives telephone calls from men or women you don’t know, or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you do not recognize.
- Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
- Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
- Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else. (Even if you do not subscribe to an internet service, your child may meet an offender while online at a friend’s house or the library)
Parents and guardians are strongly encouraged to speak openly with their children about online dangers and monitor their online activities. There are several Department of Justice sponsored resources on the Internet to help educate parents on the dangers their children face and assist parents in maintaining a safe home internet environment. For example:
What is being done about this problem?
Law-enforcement officials are tracking down an ever increasing number of “predators” on the internet. There are numerous local and state task forces that are combating internet related child exploitation. Through funding from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 39 Internet crimes Against Children task force units have been set up nationwide and focus on online child sexual exploitation. One of the most important tools for law-enforcement and families was the development of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline. (www.cybertipline.com) This online reporting mechanism has initiated numerous investigations and arrests of child predators.
NCMEC also has a Child Victim Identification Program (CVIP) which serves as the national clearinghouse for child-pornography cases across the country and the main point of contact to international agencies about child pornography victims.
In February 2006 the U.S. Department of Justice announced Project Safe Childhood, a department initiative aimed at preventing the abuse and exploitation of kids through the internet. There are five main components of this program:
- To integrate Federal, State, and Local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases and to identify and rescue child victims.
- To increase federal involvement in Child Pornography and Enticement cases.
- The training of Federal, State and Local law enforcement.
- The Participation of Project Safe Childhood partners in coordinated national initiatives.
- To provide community awareness and educational programs.
Resources and Referrals
National Children’s Alliance
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Rape Abuse and Incest National Network
NYS Sex Offender Registry listing
National list of all state sex offender registries