Unfortunate Truths about Child Pornography and the Internet [Feature]

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kidonline   Unfortunate Truths about Child Pornography and the Internet [Feature]A small blank square and a blinking cursor. A window through which the entire world exists. You only have to say the right word – any word – and your every desire will be delivered.

This isn’t some magic genie lamp. It’s Google, Bing, and every other search engine on the Internet. We live in a world where every home is tapped into a vast sea of information, images, videos and more. It’s an ocean filled with exotic islands, glorious and strange creatures, and even demons and monsters. Traveling to the wrong place can bring very real tragedy and horror to a family, and traveling there is as simple as typing in the wrong word into that little square box.

Then there’s the question of those monsters and demons. What are they, where are they, and how dangerous are they? Do parents have enough protections in place to keep children safe, or are children provided with open opportunity every day to walk too close to the dangerous jaws of those beasts – predators just waiting for the right opportunity and for the right child.

During the last decade or so, I’ve worked as an SEO consultant and have had the dubious pleasure of scouring through some of the words and phrases that people decide to type into that little white box. I can tell you that the experience initially shocked me. It made me realize that the human mind is not as civilized as we would like to believe.

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Exploring the Problem of Child Pornography and Predators

When it comes to the problem of child pornography and child predators, things have only gotten worse. According to a University of New Hampshire study published in April of 2012, arrests for possession of child pornography increased by over 30% from 2006 to 2009, a trend that paralleled the growth of peer-to-peer file sharing technologies.

Exploring such a dark issue isn’t easy. Poking a stick at the boogie man that lies in wait underneath the bed is one of those things that never turn out good for the protagonist in horror movies. However, in the real world, you don’t expect that there will actually be a boogie man under the bed.

Unfortunately, there are lots of boogie men in this world of ours, and by opening this portal – this little white box – into the homes of nearly every family throughout the world, we’ve provided those boogie men with a perfect pathway into the minds and hearts of children. It’s become a dangerous doorway through which far too many children have slipped through, never to return.

How Bad is the Child Predators Problem?

There are more cases of children getting abducted and exploited then you might want to believe.

In 2002 on New Year’s Day, 13 year old Alicia Kozakiewicz was abducted by Scott Tyree and held in his sadistic basement lair for four days. She was raped, beaten, and had images of the entire episode spread to other child predators throughout the Internet. After receiving a tip from one man in Florida who had seen her photos online and had heard about the abduction on the news, the FBI eventually located Tyree and burst into his home, rescuing Alicia from her nightmare.

Then there was the case in 2010 of Danielle Wade, a 15 year old girl in rural Virginia who started chatting on her smartphone with a boy who she thought was 16 years old. The “boy” turned out to be 38 year old Edward Bracken, who drove 400 miles to lure Danielle out of her home and abduct her. Police eventually located Danielle at Bracken’s home and arrested both Bracken and his girlfriend for unlawful contact with a minor.

In both cases, the girls had been lured into their horrible predicament through a methodical grooming process that sex predators use to capture the interests of impressionable young, teenagers – earning their trust and in some cases even “love”, before making the final attempt to abduct the child.

These cases make it into the news every now and then, but how bad is the problem really?

To better understand the reality of this issue, I decided to go straight to the federal agency responsible for investigating these cases – the very heroes that often bust down those doors and save young victims from their captors.

The FBI Story – The Problem is Getting Worse

fbiagent   Unfortunate Truths about Child Pornography and the Internet [Feature]I first approached Boston FBI media coordinator Special Agent Greg Comcowich in July of 2012 to see if he could help put me in touch with someone that could assist with this story.

Greg was immediately helpful. He said that this was a topic that is very important to the FBI right now, and one that they work tirelessly to inform the public about. He immediately put me in touch with Russ Brown, the supervisor of the FBI Cyber Crimes Division in Boston.

Our conversation took place via a conference call in October of 2012.

My first question was the most pressing – what are the 2 or 3 most significant threats to children on the Internet?  Russ didn’t even pause before answering.

“The two most significant threats are predators exploiting children for the production of child pornography, and predators grooming children for direct contact exploitation. There has been a rise in what we deem as “sextortion” cases, where the child is talked into producing and transmitting explicit videos or photos to the person [that’s] either pretending to be a child or grooming the child. Then, these explicit photos are used back against the child to create more photos. So, they send the image to the bad guy. The bad guy says, ‘Hey that’s great, I want more.’ The child says, ‘I’m not sure about producing more.’  The guy says, ‘Well if you don’t produce more, I’m gonna send this image to your friends, your family, your school.’ So, then the victim feels embarrassed and obligated to try and keep it quiet.”

I asked Russ if the goal is usually just to collect as many pictures as possible?

“Correct, and there have even been cases where they just want to inflict pain and suffering on the victim just to cause turmoil. “

I’ve always thought that these days, kids are well-trained about not trusting people online. How are these people able to so easily gain the trust of children?

“Well, it’s not necessarily in one session. It’s not like the kids meet this person online once and the person says, ‘Hey, send me a picture.’ It’s a grooming process that takes time.  Predators pose as a child, meet the child online, or they bump into the same person over and over in the chat room. It’s a process where the comfort level of the victim just lowers those boundaries more and more. Now this person [becomes] a friend or a confidante, or it can even turn into a boyfriend. Then, there are more intimate discussions. It’s a grooming process, so it’s not just meeting somebody once and then they turn [photos] over. That can happen, but with children that have been at least educated on the process, they can still become victims because they become emotionally attached to the predator.”

In the past 5 years, has the problem been getting worse?

“I can’t really say that it’s gotten worse or better. There’s such a large volume of predators out there, it’s really astounding.  It’s really hard to put that into any kind of context, just because there is such a large volume of them out there. Before the Internet, most child predators had to have direct contact. So you were really limited with what that predator was willing to do to establish that contact. Now, the Internet serves as a facility where you can have hundreds or thousands of miles, international connections and complete anonymity. You can pretend to be another child of the same age with the same interests and everything else.  Another hint as to the magnitude is if you look at any sex registry.  There are a good portion of those individuals that were convicted of child porn.”

Does the FBI work directly with sites like Facebook or Google?

“We do not have a partnership or work in conjunction with any social media sites. They have their business of social media and we have our business of investigating federal crimes. They obviously cooperate with legal servings. So, if during an investigation we identify an individual as having information or using a social website, then we will come up with a legal process, be it a subpoena or a search warrant, and serve that on the social media company who will then, by law, turn over what information is sought back to us.  Most of the social media sites typically have some sort of disclaimer that they will not post child pornography and if they find it they’ll take it down and kick the person off or something of that nature. They’re more than willing to cooperate with authorities, given the proper legal service.”

So, does the FBI depend on the company to monitor content and hopefully identify illegal material and report it?

“Those are private companies, so you’ll have to ask them about that. But, I don’t believe there are any laws on the books that force them to report anything from their own self monitoring.”

This answer surprised me. There is this notion among a lot of folks online that the federal government will immediately learn about cases of child pornography that get posted to sites or hosted online, or that get discovered on Corporate, internal networks.  I asked a second time whether the FBI at least has some form of law enforcement liaison with the major social networks to watch for such illegal activity?

“Maybe we’re not conveying this properly. They have the ability to report things if they want to, but there’s no legal requirement for them to report something. We will contact the company if we discover something through an investigation that leads us to believe that there is some type of content being held in their servers that we want to get through legal process for our investigation.”

At this point in the interview, Greg interjected to fill in the details.

“Let me give you an example. Someone using the name ‘Joe Smith’ is on a chat room or gaming board. We don’t know who Joe Smith is. After we become aware that Joe Smith is doing ‘x’, we serve a subpoena to the Internet service provider, Facebook, Google, whatever it is, asking for further info about Joe Smith. They might not even know who Joe Smith is, but they might be able to give us information that provides additional identifying information that will allow us to continue our investigation to determine who Joe Smith is.”

I was somewhat surprised that the FBI is so passive in its efforts to track down the threat of child predators. So I asked whether the FBI at least attempts to search the Internet itself for cases where child pornography exists. This time Russ responded.

“No, we do not go out and just troll the Internet, and we do absolutely no monitoring whatsoever. Usually, we’re responding to a report from a victim or some other means that there’s some type of child pornography activity, and that’s what we go off of. And there’s so much of it that there’s really no need to go out and try to look for it.”

Again, Greg spoke up to elaborate.

“We get asked that question a lot. How are we policing this? Let me answer it this way. Our rule, our guideline, our policy is simply that we can’t monitor people’s activity without having some indication of criminal activity. So really, the cornerstone of this is an indication of criminal activity. That’s when we go out and say okay, now we can start an investigation. I think it’s important to say that because of a perception that we are monitoring the Internet. The answer is that we have strict guidelines. We need an indication of criminal activity before it can be triggered. I mean, you can see where people probably want us to be very aggressive in this particular thing, but at the same time we have our own guidelines.”

Liberty advocates would probably cheer on such answers, but as a parent of children that are directly in the crosshairs, I found the answers somewhat troubling. I always liked to think of the FBI as aggressively scouring through the Internet and protecting my kids by proactively posing as young children to lure in predators, or writing creative image-scanning scripts to isolate child pornography online and go after the offenders.

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These answers told me that our hope, as parents, actually exists with the sites and companies themselves – Google, Facebook, and others. Our sanctity from perverts rests upon the shoulders of the people doing the monitoring privately. So, the next question was – are there people doing that monitoring?

Are there teams of crack-shot IT experts keeping a close eye on what gets posted to Facebook, or images discovered by Google images? Do those folks immediately report child porn aficionados to the feds?

The truth is actually somewhat appalling.

Who is Watching Out for Wolves?

I first went to Google to ask about their efforts dealing with child pornography that shows up within search engine results or images. The response came in hours – not days – and surprised me.

“Thanks for reaching out; however we aren’t able to participate at this time. I apologize for the inconvenience.”

Thankfully, the folks at Microsoft were far more willing to discuss this sensitive issue as related to the Bing search engine. Microsoft responded to my questions by describing what they called a “three pronged approach” toward online safety involving “education and guidance; and partnerships with government, industry, law enforcement, and other key organizations to help build safer, more trusted computing experiences.”

photodna   Unfortunate Truths about Child Pornography and the Internet [Feature]

One of the most interesting technological solutions described in Microsoft’s response to my query was something called “PhotoDNA”, produced as a collaboration between Microsoft and Dr. Hany Farid of Dartmouth.  Microsoft described the technology via email.

“[PhotoDNA is] a technology that aids in finding and removing some of ‘worst of the worst’ images of child sexual exploitation from the Internet. Following Microsoft’s donation of the PhotoDNA technology to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, NCMEC established a signature-based program for online service providers to help disrupt the spread of child pornography online. As a participant of NCMEC’s PhotoDNA Initiative, Microsoft implemented the PhotoDNA technology in its services, including Bing and SkyDrive, to compare images publicly shared or found on Bing and SkyDrive with the signatures from NCMEC.

The implementation of PhotoDNA started with the indexing process for image search in Bing (in order to help prevent Bing from rendering these child pornography images in its image search results) and on newly-uploaded photos on SkyDrive (to better disrupt the abuse of SkyDrive for sharing these images). These deployments are worldwide and we plan to continue to expand our deployment over time.”

This is a spectacular effort on the part of Microsoft, working directly with NCMEC to keep those “worst of the worst” images from proliferating throughout the Internet through Microsoft’s services.  I’m leaning more toward using Bing over Google every day…

Microsoft further reported that through its use of “PhotoDNA”, it had discovered  “3,500 matches” from using NCMEC signatures to identify child pornography, and duly reports all matches.

“When we find a match in Bing, we report the URL to NCMEC.”

As a parent, this sort of proactive approach to shut down child pornography and exploitation using the Internet, right at the source, provides a bit of hope that at least there are still some companies out there willing to take a strong stance against child exploitation online.

Facebook referred me to its feature article on the site titled, “Meet the Safety Team”, about Facebook’s “User Operations (UO)” group. The article specifically references how the group responds to cases of child exploitation discovered on Facebook.

There are several tactics that my team uses to surface this kind of content when it appears, but one of the most important ways is by reports from people who may accidentally encounter it. When we receive and verify a report of child exploitation material on the site, we immediately take action. We relay every offending image, along with relevant account information, to the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC is a non-profit organization designed to help protect children that was established by the U.S Congress and partially funded by the Department of Justice. We also work with the Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre (CEOP), the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) in the UK, and a number of anti-human trafficking organizations worldwide.”

In the article, Charlotte Carnevale Willner, Facebook’s Safety Team Lead of User Operations, wrote that cases of child exploitation showing up on Facebook are “extremely rare”. I asked Facebook directly just how many cases of child exploitation have been identified on the site. The response was short: “We do not publicly disclose those numbers.”

This answer really appeared across the board. Google’s response made this clear, as did responses (or lack thereof) from sites like Twitter, Pinterest, and many others. It’s a topic that many people don’t want to acknowledge or publicly discuss.

With that in mind, I decided to explore how corporations or businesses themselves behave when they stumble across such content on their own networks. What I discovered was actually rather shocking.

Who Does the Policing?

The first question that many people have is what sort of technology or methods that major corporations use to identify when images that might represent child exploitation appear on their own networks.

Hendrik Montag-Schwappacher is the Supervisor of the iGuard filter database department at Edgewave in San Diego, California. Edgewave is a content filtering company that works to help companies and businesses allow access to the Internet while blocking access to inappropriate material.

hendrik2   Unfortunate Truths about Child Pornography and the Internet [Feature]I asked Hendrik how much of the filtering that takes place at major corporations is conducted electronically, and how much is done by humans.

Our solution is based on human review. Our analysts review each web site that is later incorporated into the filtering solution and applies it in up to three of 80 categories. There are other approaches in the market, but we believe that the accuracy of a well trained human analyst allows for an extremely reliable classification of web content.

The high number of categories allows for a very granular approach of monitoring internet usage according the different needs of our customers.

Hendrik further elaborated that when Edgewave comes across material that represents a form of child abuse or exploitation, that material gets reported to the authorities through a third party, much like NCMEC in the United States.

In general, child abuse material falls into one of the most commonly blocked categories: pornography. Additionally, whenever we identify child abuse material, we automatically report it to the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation) – an organization this company has been a member of for 5 years.

However, when it comes to individual clients that take over the monitoring process utilizing only Edgewave hardware solutions, like its iPrism product, the reporting responsibility falls out of the hands of Edgewave and into the hands of the client. In other words, those clients need to self-report abuses that take place within their own company.

Once iPrism is installed in a school or a company we have little insight into the actual usage since our customers in general don’t share log files with us. But in order to prevent any liability, companies have a strong incentive to report the usage of illegal material directly to authorities. 

Covering Up the Dirty Laundry

During this investigation, I reached out to as many contacts and sources as I could in order to get a better feel for how well companies do when it comes to reporting incidences of child pornography on their systems.

It’s one thing to count on the FBI to track down and arrest child predators, but if incidences don’t get reported, how can we expect the authorities in any country to deal with those predators and get them off the Internet?

During my search for sources, I encountered a person who agreed to be interviewed regarding his own experiences working for a psychiatric hospital in the UK as an IT help desk engineer.  The incident in under discussion here involved the Hutton Centre at St. Lukes Hospital in Middlesbrough in the UK.

In the case reported in the few media reports that covered it, staff at Hutton Centre were investigated for using email to share pornographic images. The report stated that seven staff were sacked and four received written warnings.

According to this source, who requested to remain anonymous, the case actually included child pornography as well as regular pornography, and that the material was provided to the patients, not just shared between staff.

mentalward   Unfortunate Truths about Child Pornography and the Internet [Feature]

According to this source, these sorts of things are probably covered up, at least in the UK, due to the massive Cleveland Child Sex Abuse Scandal that took place there in the 1980s, and the fact that companies want to avoid a repeat of that past fallout.

For the purposes of this interview, I will call this source “Tim”.

I asked Tim how the inappropriate material was initially discovered at the Hutton Centre where he worked.

Well, you always got strange vibes off of people, so it could have been going on for years and people are just like, ‘gosh, that guy’s strange’ or whatever. But, it was in the middle of 2007, as I remember it, when there were concurrent things that happened. First, someone had a problem with their PC, and one of the guys went out to have a look at it, and alarm bells went off then. He basically found material that shouldn’t have been there, and it was basically wiped on the spot and reimaged and it was reported to our manager. But, at the same time there was an issue with emails going around, and that’s where this stemmed from – extremely inappropriate emails across a wide range of different topics. That’s what kind of alerted us.

In fact, these weren’t just emails between staff, but involved inappropriate material – including child pornography – spread between staff and patients.

Well, what it was is that the illicit images, which ranged from normal pornography to illegal pornography, were acquired by particular members of staff and then given to patients. There was one patient that even had their own computer, and had to have its own access to the Internet, so it had to be completely isolated from the rest of the corporate network. The whole idea of this person having their own computer raised massive alarm bells at IT, but we were overruled at the senior Doctor level.  It just makes my jaw drop thinking about it now.

I asked how patients in a mental hospital could be provided with access to external Internet and email, and Tim further explained.

Yes, well we’re talking people that you wouldn’t normally consider to be patients.  There are different psychiatric units around the country as part of the system, and the one around here isn’t for the absolute lunatic, but basically for the kinds that don’t really get into the papers.  Within this psychiatric unit there was an inpatient department and an outpatient department.  The day treatment center was for outpatients, the inpatients were there for maybe a couple of weeks or a couple of months. Then, there was the more secure area there for the sexual perverts that had been considered not to be accepted in society by the courts. That’s where they were, and that’s where this activity was going on.

In other words in 2007, a psychiatric hospital in the UK that was responsible for the care and treatment of recovering sex offenders, was actually actively providing sexual perverts with the very material they craved – including child pornography, according to this particular source.

I asked Tim how the company responded to this once IT had uncovered it, and whether they reported it to the authorities.

The reaction of the hospital trust was that it had to be downplayed, probably largely because of this previous scandal [Cleveland sex abuse scandal]. The police were on board with this as well, that’s why there was only one guy charged. That’s why there were all of these people suspended or sacked and none of them were named.

I asked Tim to share how he first learned that the material being provided to the patients included child exploitation images.

Yeah, there was one morning when I came in there was a big meeting, and we were basically told that we were to say absolutely nothing. At first I had absolutely no idea what was going on. Then I spoke with my manager and they told me what had happened. There was a bit of an atmosphere of, ‘I told you so,’ but it was probably more like, ‘I’m surprised that it had taken so long.’

The police were only involved on an advisory basis, basically as the legal guys to say what could or couldn’t be done about it. It was extremely controlled at the top as to what was going on. This was in 2007, but the media report was only last year, so it took some time before it was dealt with internally. But no, I don’t think the police were informed officially about the child pornography.  But that’s not surprising to me, I don’t have a whole lot of faith in institutions anyway, so….

Finishing off our phone conversation, I asked Tim to speculate on why he thought the company would cover up such horrible material that really should have been shared with the authorities – particularly since the material included the abuse of real children.

I think that’s why they chose to cover it up. I think it’s the fact that there were people involved that were charged of sexual offenses, who were under their care. If it hadn’t been covered up and it had come out that they were actually providing them with material, it would have been an absolute shit storm.  And of course the historical stuff with the Cleveland scandal.

This situation – a situation that may very well happen internally at companies far more often than the public may realize – is a stark reminder that child exploitation still remains a dark side of the human psyche that people would much rather turn a blind eye to than to face it straight on.

Getting Proactive Against Child Exploitation

It is striking just how widespread the issue of child exploitation and the distribution of pornography involving children may be. It is troubling to consider that there could be a large part of the picture that even law enforcement isn’t privy to – and goes under the radar, continuing on as a massive threat toward all children that dare to spend time on the Internet.

Heading back to the FBI, I asked Russ how spending so much time on cases like these affected him personally.

“I think the biggest affect is that it really opens your eyes as to the vast number of predators that are out there, and the extent that they will actually abuse and harm children. For most normal people, you would never think that because most people think, ‘Well I would never do that to a kid, so why would anyone else ever do it?’ But really, it makes you more aware of the types of people that are out there that are willing to do this, and the actual large number that are out there.”

I explained to Russ and Greg about my own observations conducting SEO research, and coming across some of the disturbing searches – in many cases involving children – that many people type into the search engines.

“Yeah, and I can kind of understand, because some people are just curious to see what comes back when they conduct such a search, but there are certainly going to be certain people that are absolutely focused on that search.”

The truth is that the FBI is not quite as passive as it might appear. Just because the Feds are restricted from monitoring online activity without just cause, it doesn’t mean there aren’t enough leads to keep them extremely busy. Russ explained how the FBI focuses much of its time when it comes to tracking down child predators.

“Yes, it’s active investigations on leads and reports from victims and what we’ve found on victim computers. Typically, it’s not just one contact with one predator. There’s usually more than one. Then, when we go in and arrest a predator, usually we identify additional victims, and then other predators that they’ve been talking with and creating child porn with. So, it’s an endless web.”

Greg went on to explain how the FBI does try to take a proactive approach by uncovering such leads and then tracking down every single child predator that the first predator had been in contact with. According to Russ and Greg, this activity alone keeps the cyber crime division extremely busy.

“When you say it opens up a web, this is where it kind of becomes proactive. I know it seems like we’re telling people, you know, we don’t monitor and we’re passive, but this is how it’s proactive. We go and get one guy, and as Russ said, we open up his computer and he’s trading pornography with 25 other guys. Well, those guys don’t get a free pass. All of a sudden, we’ve got 25 new cases. Each of those guys are going to get investigated. Each time we go and search each one of those 25 computers, he’s trading with another 25. Then, we’re on that path with those other 25. So again, as much as we say we’re not monitoring, we’re still doing proactive things just out of the fruits of what we’re already doing. It’s just like peeling back the layers of an onion.”

It seems that even without many companies turning in cases of child pornography on their own internal networks, there are enough cases produced from the sort of reporting that does take place – like the effort described by Microsoft and its PhotoDNA technology – that the FBI is already overwhelmed with criminals out there busy actively exploiting children. According to Russ, it is a problem that is so large that it can’t even be put into any sort of context.

How Parents Can Protect Their Kids

The problem can feel overwhelming and terrifying for parents. If there is such a massive undercurrent of filth and perversion targeting children on the Internet, is it even safe to let kids go online? Is it responsible to allow them to walk up to that portal – that doorway to the cyber world – and go exploring?

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Hendrik explained his take on the issue with some simple advice that lays the responsibility for a child’s safety squarely with parents.

The great variety of activities on the internet can bring both a massive amount of positive, but unfortunately, negative aspects as well. Parents should do everything in their power to make sure their children don’t get themselves into a potentially harmful situation in the physical world and the same rules should certainly apply for the world online as well. 

When you think about it, this is the crux of the situation. Parents will do everything they can to make sure their kids look both ways to cross the street, or to make sure to wear a helmet when riding a bike, but how many parents truly take the same precautionary approach to their child’s use of the Internet?

How many parents take the threats seriously enough?

I asked Russ for what advice he would offer parents.

“I’d say the number one thing parents can do is talk to their kids. Make sure you have an open discussion about the potential threats that are on the Internet. Not only contacting a stranger, but also pointing out that who they meet may not approach them right away and may try to develop a friendship and things of that nature. So, you need to continuously have that open dialogue with your child, making sure that they have an understanding as the years go by, because every year that they grow up, the threats will slightly change.

Secondly, make sure that you know what they’re doing online. Make sure you’re completely involved, and kind of watch what they’re doing online. What sites have they gone to, who are they talking to.  One easy way is to make sure the computer is in a common area so they can’t really hide things. And if you do see them sort of starting to flip the screen, that’s an indicator that they’re trying to hide something.

You can say to your child that you can use the computer and you can use email, but I’m going to see what’s going on.”

I explained to Russ that there are many people – even readers at MakeUseOf – that any time we post about applications that monitor the activity of children online, immediately complain that it’s a complete invasion of privacy.

Russ answered without pause.

“Well, you know that’s your child. So, is it a child or is it an equal adult with the same developed emotional capabilities as an adult? If you’re empowering your child at the age of twelve to be on an equal  level as you are, then you aren’t really a parent anymore. Technically, they aren’t really mature enough to handle that stuff.”

Russ and Greg both pointed out that the online threat isn’t just the standard web browser on a computer. Kids can access the Internet from anywhere and at any time these days.

Greg explained in greater detail as our half-hour phone conference drew to a close.

“What Russ and I and others in the office have been trying to do when we do these interviews is to change the notion about where the threat is coming from. I think people are now beginning to grasp that phones and tablets are where the kids are beginning to be online. The Wii, the Xboxs, etc. Our point of emphasis has been, any of these devices can be exploited.”

What Can You Do?

The Internet of today is no longer your father’s Internet. It is a growing and ever-changing entity that permeates throughout every aspect of life. Kids access it from game consoles, smart phones and tablets. There isn’t even the need for a computer any more, and predators that troll for kids to exploit need look no further than chat rooms and discussion boards on the favorite social media sites that kids of all ages frequent.

Hendrik said it best – if you would be willing to do everything within your power to keep your children safe in the physical world, it only makes sense to do the same in the virtual world. Talk to your kids and help them understand that such people exist in the world. Don’t ignore it. Because a child that understands the terrible realities of the cyber world will be better armored against those predators that seek to do them harm. Clearly, the FBI and others can only do so much to protect our kids. It is up to parents and guardians to do the rest.

Make use of all of the technology tools at your disposal – monitor what your kids are doing whenever they’re online. Do you know who they’re chatting with? Shouldn’t you know? Remember, that “online” means smartphones and tablets too. Keeping a log of sites they visit does not invade their privacy – it protects their lives. As a parent, it’s your responsibility to be aware of what your child is doing when they walk through that little square portal called the search engine. Look out for our follow-up article on what tools you can use today to help your kids use the Internet safely.

Just this year, the FBI established a great new website for teachers and parents called FBI Cyber Surf Islands, to work with kids in 3rd through 8th grade. It’s a kid-friendly website that kids will enjoy using, but with the guidance of teachers and parents, it’ll teach them the importance of staying guard while surfing online.

Beyond the technology and education, the most important thing is to talk to your kids about these dangers. They are real and shouldn’t be ignored. In the end, you are really the only thing that stands between a safe and secure child on the Internet, and the destroyed innocence of a sexually exploited child.

Image Credits: Attentive Teenage Girl via Shutterstock, FBI Agent at Work via FBI.gov,FBI Sex Predator Listings,Cyber Security via ShutterstockInformation via Shutterstock,Very Cool Young Man via shutterstock,Daughter Listening to Mother via Shutterstock,Illustration of Corrider via Shutterstock

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141 Comments - Write a Comment

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G Walz

This was an excellent article. Thank you very, very much for writing it.

Ryan Dube

Thank you. Really appreciate the positive feedback.

dragonmouth

US government, through many of its agencies, monitors any and all electronic communications. However, as the intro to the TV show “Person of Interest” points out, the government’s emphasis is on terrorism. Everything else (other crimes) is considered irrelevant.

While the government has the data, they do not have the personnel to analyze and act upon that data. It takes money to employ more personnel. American taxpayers want the problem of child pornography taken care of but are they willing to pay for that service? Besides, any significant increase in law enforcement personnel will be seen in certain quarters as a move towards a police state.

Sand

US govt. and European countries are using topics like this and terrorism just to get more control over their own citizens, the current fashion is the topic of copyright, the new reason to filtering the internet and monitoring activities of users.

BTW, did you know US govt. planned to attack their own cities to use it as excuse to invade Cuba, then establishing a convenient government in there? No, it’s not a conspiracy theory, FBI have admitted that, J.F. Kennedy rejected the plan back then. It was called “Operation Northwoods”.

The article is quite ironic for me, being that I had the opposite experiences on internet. I have used internet since I had 12, I even met people in person in that time, only one person lied to me about its age, it resulted that person had 2 years LESS than age it told me it has. 3 years later it was almost impossible to meet somebody, everyone was acting more paranoid and it was no longer funny, so I decided to forget chats.

When I started to chat with people on internet again, it was when I played online games for first time, I had 22, there were adults and teens (teens from 13 to 16) in one of the real time strategy games I used to play. Adults were calm persons, while teens used to tell me things like “I’m watching porn now”, I didn’t reply anything in those situations, simply ignored what they said, then just laughed in my response.

There are sexual predators on internet, no doubt, but the article is simply biased and just shows one part of story, adolescents live their own situations without being exposing to blackmail and other examples mentioned in the article and all of you should know it, you didn’t born with 30 years and your kids with zero. Wikileaks has an article about this subject, it was wrote by a German man who works in telecommunications and knows how some of these things work.

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Gerald Huber

Great article. I am a parent of a boy and girl ages 16 and 15. I gave them both laptops last christmas for homework, mostly, but facebook, music, etc. After a couple weeks, I found that my daughter was using skype to talk to random people, mostly her age or a few years older ( 18 or so ). I then began to monitor her ( and my son ) much more closely. Then explained to me in a your-so-dumb tone that they aren’t so stupid as to meet those people in real life. My kid would jokingly cry out “stranger danger” for someone walking through the park but thinks she is safe in her bedroom on the internet.

Talk to your kids, monitor their online habits, get informed on safe habits and teach them to use them always. This is a very real danger and can happen to even the smartest of children.

Thanks again for bringing up this terrible but necessary discussion.

Javier Vega

Nice comment, i understand when u say “your-so-dumb, they won’t meet those people in real life” but is always safer to monitor, just to keep it 100% clear, not doubting the kids, but ensuring their safety.
I don’t like this spread of child pornography, and as the article says, internet is a two-edged sword, we may take a great advantage of it in a respectful manner, and others could try to mislead people for their own purposes, better safe than sorrow.

Ryan Dube

I agree Gerald – unfortunately I think kids themselves don’t fully appreciate that the danger isn’t apparent. It isn’t like you can look at the individuals you’re interacting with – you have to take them at face value that they are truly the age they say. If what the FBI says is any indication, a lot of those “kids” aren’t actually kids.

Nomuna

Monitoring is necessary but too much of it will cause problems. My parents are just too protective, I always thought they are just too careful. I had been to my friends house without them knowing and lied that I’m at school when I’m hanging out with my friends. But now that I grow older, I realized sneaking around like that was very dangerous. So I think building an honest and strong relationship with kids is more important.

Ramsha Almas

Definitely agreed. My parents also put impositions on my web presence without explanation, and I definitely sneaked around. Making sure your children understand, and to update them age-appropriate material is important, instead of not explaining to them the reason of monitoring. And really, explaining will only make your job easier, because youth will be more likely to watch out for themselves as well–especially in places when we can’t consistently look after them, like their smartphones and tablets when they’re not home.

Anonymous

Gerald, I agree with you completely.
It is not the responsibility of the FBI to keep your kids safe. It is the responsibility of the parent to keep your kids safe and the job of the FBi to intervene when the unthinkable happens.
I work in the IT industry and we have, probably, a dozen computers in my home. All of the computers that the kids (I have 4) have access to are protected with NetNanny. I also have a Dansguardian proxy running at home and use OpenDNS to domain block based on blacklists.
“Wow! That sounds like you’re paranoid.”, you may say. You’d better believe that I’m paranoid. I have been doing Treatment Foster Care for nearly 15 years now and know how much danger my kids are in from predators. Not only the adults, but some of the older teens as well.
Just like we won’t take a kid that has known issues of acting out sexually because it’s a danger to our own kids and we won’t let our kids go into the foster kid’s bedroom (and vice versa) we take as few chances as possible with our kid’s online comsumption.
Do they always like it? No, definitely not. Is it a hassle sometimes to check the page that my kids have requested an exception for in NetNanny before I grant that exception? Absolutely! I feel that my kids, however, are worth that extra effort to make them safe and secure.

Lisa Santika Onggrid

I’m 17. My parents aren’t exactly tech savvy so I educate myself about online safety. True though, that people are more aware of danger if they’re tangible. Internet gives us some sort of false safety, as if people won’t know who’s behind the monitor, which is right to some degree. Yet as of today, I cringe when I see majoity of my friends are comfortable displaying their phone number on Facebook/Twitter, some complete with their home address. Don’t you think it’s screaming ‘Get me now!’?
I’ve never been comfortable with random chat sites like Omegle. Sounds like asking for trouble, especially for girls.
My rule of thumb is if you don’t personally know the person in real-life, then take it with a grain of salt.

tamaran

Congratulations, Lisa. At your seventeens you have clearer ideas on what is more convenient than a lot of people of your age and older ;-)

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Jason Williams

Great article, very disheartening to hear some of the goverments and companies approaches but very enlightening to my policing of the internet for the my kids.

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Cerese Minetti

GREAT ARTICLE! THANKS FOR LOOKING OUT FOR OUR YOUTH AND HELPING GET THE WORD OUT TO OTHERS SO THEY CAN DO THE SAME! :)

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Gza7x

Great article, until you got into saying that parents should monitor there children’s internet use. I believe that there are far more ways of going about this than completely disregarding some of the only privacy children have.

Ryan Dube

That’s a common position here at MUO (as I stated toward the end of the FBI interview) – so it’s a position that’s important and I completely respect it. I would however encourage you to read Russ’ response to that position as well – his statement about the maturity level of kids in handling that freedom of privacy – a freedom adults handle well – is an important point.

Guy

I read and hear this sentiment often and it is invalid.
No one said to ‘completely disregard your child’s privacy.’ However, to completely not monitor what your children are doing is to completely disregard their well-being. That is parental neglect.
The line of privacy is best identified by the parent and the child, with the parent having the final say.

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Giggity Goebbels

They can also watch ‘porn’ as they build a computer.need to plug the audio jack in,put the processor into the socket,inserting the ram modules,plugging in the sata cables,plugging in the power supply…this type of ‘porn’ is healthy porn for the mind.

Joses Lemmuela

You have watched too much porn.

Giggity Goebbels

I only watched porn once and it as boring crappy and stupid.waste of time.

Joses Lemmuela

Well, good for you, then.

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Adam Campbell

Thank you, It is easy to tell that you have put a lot of work into this. It’s sad that the internet which was pioneered to share information for the good of people has become so twisted and perverse.

Ryan Dube

Thanks Adam. That’s true. There’s good and bad. My hope is that while we take the time here at MUO to explore all of the good that the Internet and computers can offer, that we also take the time to understand and appreciate the inherent dangers that exist as well – particularly for kids.

Then again, as tech-geek parents, we are perfectly capable of protecting our kids. That’s for sure.

dragonmouth

Internet is just a tool. As such, they way it is used is up to the user. It is not the Internet that is twisted and perverse, it the people using it. After all, a hammer is used to pound in nails, but it can also be used to bash someone’s brains in. Is the hammer twisted and perverse?

BTW – porn and child porn is not a modern phenomenon, it has existed for thousands of years.

Adam Campbell

My point was merely that the internet began with nothing as “…twisted and perverse…” as child porn, but, “…has become…” a haven for porn etc. Don’t get me wrong, I love the internet. It has accomplished so many amazing things.

ac

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Mel

Thanks for this. As much as you want to shield your child away from danger, I think it’s extremely important to be as open and as honest with them when accessing the web. We are crossing into an area of the wild, everything have changed, so we all must adapt.

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Ran Kinory

WE must talk with our children our

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Vipul Jain

Great article.. It kind of reminds me of the Movie “Trust”, which had a similar topic of attention.

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Techno’221

Hi Ryan, thanks for the great article. I can tell that it took a lot of work. You’ll be happy to hear that where I live the police have enacted a bait program. The only reason I know about it is that our local police advertise on radio stations warning predators that they’re hunting for them. There are police officers posing as children on the internet looking for predators who would like to meet up. The predator gets a nasty surprise when they find they’re being arrested instead of meeting a child to exploit. From what I’ve read in the local newspapers the police have reported the scheme as successful in netting a number dangerous people.

Ryan Dube

That’s excellent! If you don’t mind me asking, is this in the U.S. or another country? Can you share more details? This sounds like an excellent program, and it’s great to hear that it’s successful.

Techno’221

Yes of course – I live in the Metro Vancouver area of British Columbia, Canada. Perhaps a search with the area will bring up more. I could dig around for more information for you too if you want. Actually, my friend is criminology professor at Simon Fraser University. I’m going to ask him about this as well. I wish I could get a recording of the radio commercial for you because it was clever in the way that they had a child’s voice which was then blended and dubbed over by an adult’s voice stating that this is the police; we’re online and we’re looking for child predators. It made me feel great that something like this was being done.

I’m going to look for your email address because there are number of things I want to show including the research being done at SFU criminology department. Spatial relations using statistics to capture serial murderers was discovered by a doctorate student at this university… which is even the basis for many t.v. shows of the crime mystery genre in your country. Unrelated, to that, the police came up with an innovative way to catch car thieves here in Metro Vancouver. It was also a bait type of scheme or maybe it’s called a sting but I have no idea really. Anyway, MV had a very high rate of automobile thefts relative to other cities in Canada and the United States. The cops rigged up bait cars and waited for thieves to steal them. Once a thief broke in the car, got it started and the car was in gear rolling the police would come over the speakers in the car telling them they had just stolen a bait car; the engine is being disabled remotely; and prepare to be arrested. They showed a few of these captures on t.v. The police had video cameras put in the bait car and also had control of the door locks so the ‘suspect’ couldn’t open the door and run. There wasn’t time to do any escaping anyway. The cops were always only meters away.

I’m sorry, these stories are much less serious than child pornography and predators of children. I digress. I just want to tell you that the police here try to figure out ways of solving problems, focus on them and catch as many bad guys as they can in concentrated blitzes. I’m sure the safety of our children is a much higher priority but it took longer to come up with a good idea.

Oh, I also know of a police force in another province – the Ontario Provincial Police I believe – who came up with technology to find out WHERE the pictures and videos of child pornography were taken. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen this on a news program so the details are hazy however I remember the point clearly. Basically, every last detail of the background in any of the offending multimedia was captured, categorized and fed into an electronic database. As a few of the crimes were solved they were able to identify the exact location where the horror occurred. Then, you get it – a lot of forensics including a ton of pictures were taken of the crime scene and because our police forces cooperate they are able to make a match and where there’s smoke there’s fire so probably more than one crime took place in the same place. Links are made and hopefully, WHAMMY, crimes are solved. Specifically they showed an example of the wall and bed of a motel. The wall paper and bed spreads had specific patterns and colours that matched other video footage in the database. Thus, a number of other cases were either solved or at least their investigations progressed.

As you can see this is getting very long and I don’t want to fill the whole page with me babbling on and on. I’ll find your email address and send you some of this information directly. I can tell you that I’m someone from a small city on the prairies and when I came to the ‘big city’ I was a little intimidated. Knowing that we have a number of police forces that are willing to try innovative techniques, cooperate with each other and so forth, really makes me feel a lot more secure about living here and possibly raising a family here.

Techno’221

Search Kim Rossmo on wiki. He’s the fellow that wrote the paper for his 1995 PhD dissertation to catch serial killers. Search prof Martin Andresen of Simon Fraser University. He’s my friend and Martin happens to be close friends with Kim. Martin researches in the area of spatial analysis and he might be able to give you more info. I’ve contacted Martin asking whether Kim has looked at tracking down child predators and pornographers. I’ll ask Martin more details about the specifics of the results of police posing as children online, fishing for predators willing to meet with them. Cheers.

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zaid

Great Article Ryan. However i noticed you referred the Google search box as squarish isn’t it more rectangular? pardon my curiosity.

Ryan Dube

You are most certainly pardoned. And yes, I suppose “rectangular” would have been a more accurate description to use. Thank you. :-)

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Mac Witty

Talk to your kids is probably the best prevention. Not only about what can happen but that we all do stupid things sometimes. To get the children to understand that even if they have “gone to fare” in a conversation on line it is alway okay to come and talk about it and get help to get out of it.

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Rutul

This is article should be promoted more, the raising issues of child abuse and child porn is very very concerning, also people should reach out to children and tell them what to do or at least, give proper knowledge about threats and parents should have a tab over their online activities.

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Rama moorthy

Excellent article ever ..

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Avish Kansakar

great article.

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Ritwick Saikia

This is one big problem and it’s not going away as long as we don’t talk about it. Kudos to you guys for writing a post on this sensitive issue and making people aware of this online menace. Forewarned is forearmed as they say.

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Douglas Mutay

Hey Ryan, This is far beyond one of the best article I read on MUO because I really felt concerned about all that from A-Z. You did an excellent job. I have just shared it with officemate and we’re willing to meet and discuss about all this. It’s a serious case, something that we really should deal with without delay.
Thank you again for this amazing work. Thumbs up!

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Mike Nelson

I can’t read the rest of the article
the link must be broken

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Sri Vastav Reddy

Must reed article for Parents especially ..

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Catherine McCrum

Excellent article – too bad there is no absolute solution to the problem. I agree that supervision of computer use by the young is a necessity to help keep them safe. I am posing the link to this for all my friends and family to read as well. Thanks

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Denis Paley

Great article. One of the best I’ve read explaining the dangers to children using the Internet. I will be sharing this with a lot of other people.

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hans gruber

Years ago I had these kinds of images sent to me by email. Some of the images where horrific and I don’t want to crap ever again. Most child porn is sent and received through peer-to-peer networks not through the use of search engines or Facebook. Also most legitimate child porn is manufactured in eastern Europe not in the United States

gospelmidi

“…most legitimate child porn is manufactured in eastern Europe”

Where is the rest of the legitimate child porn manufactured?

Which authority determines what child porn is legitimate?

If some child porn fails to make the legitimate list, can its manufacturers get a second opinion, or appeal for a review and reclassification into the legitimate child porn category?

I shouldn’t joke about child porn, because the sexual exploitation of children is a tragedy, a legacy of the oppression and poverty of the totalitarian Soviet occupation, and a nearly inevitable consequence of godless communism and the removal of fathers and paternal authority from families, replaced by the nanny state. Sounds like what’s happening in another part of the world.

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Anonymous

now im all freaked out i have a ten year old who does the quick exit when i come in the. guess i need to play detective as she is a bit hard headed and doesnt respond well to “positive” criticism. people i do really think it is my job to help my kids develop the ability to judge between behavior that will lead to a happy life and behavior that can harm them.

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Wayne

Wow! The response from Google was quite a shocker.
So much for “First do no harm”.

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Sean

Very comprehensive piece of work here. Great job Ryan.

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G. Reed

Excellent. As a grandparent it really made me think of the grandkids. Thank you.

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Amanda

Hi Ryan, thank you so very much for this article. I appreciate the time and effort you put into it – your findings are terrifying, to say the least. I would like to ask/have your permission to share this article on my blogs – of course I would leave a link to MakeUseOf. Thanks in advance, whatever your answer.

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Ayan Panja

excellent burning article…. child pornography should be stopped immediately before it spreads like cancer……

dragonmouth

A very noble sentiment but exactly how do you propose to accomplish that? Unfortunately any and all really effective methods are opposed by human and civil rights activists.

For your information, child pornography has already spread far and wide. It is a pandemic.

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Sylvester

good article but a shy bit shallow. as a retired Interpol analyst i will tell you many other governmental agencies are doing the work the fbi is not doing. your reporting did not include the wonderful work of other international organisations as well as the seldom recognised accomplishments of your own ICE agents and lets not forget postal inspectors who are very proactive as you describe.

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DrMik

My son is now in his twenties and has a serious head on him these days. In the past I never felt the need for monitoring him using the internet. However he said “If I want to meet someone I have got to know on line, you’d give me a lift there, wouldn’t you Dad?” Of course I would. He was that sensible then. However most people he met lived in other countries.

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Ron Lister

In an age where TV down plays or pokes fun at values and morality, where parents and teachers and other positions of authority are often portrayed as bumbling idiots or at least compleetly out of touch, (even Disney has jumped on that bandwagon). I don’t think I need to name any examples there easy to find everywhere. I foresee it becoming increasingly hard for children accept advice and safety tipsfrom parents and teachers. As many of you who are parents already know when they hit 10 years old they start to think that they know more than their parents do and some develope a little rebelious attitud, some will just scoff roll their eyes and remark “I know that I’m not stupid, you know”, some will act respectfully and act as though you’ve given them good advice just so you won’t continue to harp on the topic, yet they will go and make there own mistakes regardless of the valuable tips and information we give them. I think young teens are more likely to believe the words and take advice from their TV heros, sport stars, and music idols, and celebrities faster than from there own parents and teachers. But we have to keep on trying to keep them safe from the world full of danger from preditors who would abduct them or exploit them or hurt them in any way and from the lunitics who shoot up movie theaters and class rooms, from the dangers of drinking and driving, drugs, sex to earlie,… (rant rant rant) I’m sorry. It has always been a rough place out there(the world) maybe its getting worse as we get desensitized from information overload from all over the world. Maybe its always been like this and now we just see it more because information is so prevelent and easy to come by through the magic of the internet and TV news. In any case parents have always been charged with looking out for their little ones no mater how big they get. So never give up some of that harping just might sink in and save a life.

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Michelle

Thank you, thank you, for having the courage to speak out about this danger. Parents need to be informed and made aware. It takes a lot of energy to monitor what our kids are doing, but it is the only way to keep them safe. Obviously keeping an open, honest relationship with them is key also. Really impressed with Make Use Of for taking a stand. Bravo!

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leonard waks

It is vitally important for parents to become tech savvy – especially as this relates to the practices of their kids. And it is also very important that tey stayt closely abreast of their kid’s online behaviors.

That said, I want to put in a few words for th ‘liberal’ position here.

First, the most important point in the article is that parents have to build trusting nd frank relationships with their children. Once these children enter their teen years – and especially after age 14 or 15 – these trustful and open relationships will have to contwend with the challenges of sexual activity. As parents we may not like it, but a very large percentage of teens are sexually active. Taking an “I know better, I’m your parent” attitude will bust any open and trusting relationships. All you’ll get, and all you’ll deserve – are lies.

Second, it is simply not the job of a government in a free society to go peeking under anyand every bed in the hope of finding a criminal. Those FBI limits are not shocking or appalling – they are necessary limits for living in a free society.

Third, “kids” or “children” are not appropriate terms for teens. They are not children – they are young adults. When we take a sentimental attitude – when we try to keep them “innocent” – we are merely rationalizing our own fears and desires for control. As parents, our jobs are to help our teens grow and adjust to their new challenges as young dults, not to prevent them from growing for fear something terrible will happen to them. The best defense against that is their own mature and responsible judgment – not parental controls which nullfy it.

Dee Wheat

I understand your point. However, we established early on that my house was not a democracy, and my kids knew….and still do….that there were some instances when they simply did not get a vote.

One of those was that they were not going to be allowed to be exploited or taken advantage of by some puke who was intent on destroying their lives for a fleeting thrill.

Sexual activity in teens is a fact of life. It was back in the dark ages when I was a teen. But if my kid is going to engage in sexual activity, I want it to be on their terms, and safely. The internet doesn’t really allow for that, or at least does not encourage it.

leonard waks

A household is certainly not a democracy. Kids should be encouraged to participate in discussions. but as parents bear the responsibility, they have ultimate authority. Kids don’t get to vote because there are not votes.

I wish we could all make rules that determined how other people would relate to our children. We can do a lot of things, but in the end it is these other people and our children who will determine that. We can and should intervene actively and decisively with respect to the interactions of our young children – our “kids”. But we have to start backing off when they get to 14 -15 – when our children are no longer “kids” – or else our efforts will become counter-productive.

Life now takes place, for better or for worse, as much on the Internet as in face to face reality. Or to put a somewhat different point on this – the Internet is now a vital part of reality – cyber space no longer exists as a thing in itself. Young people will be meeting online and some will be activating those relationships in face to face meetings.

Parents can encourage intelligence and safety, but a heavy hand is likely to backfire. That is my central point.

Dee Wheat

Again, Leonard, I understand your point, and on many levels agree with you. The other part of this is that I am in my mid-60’s, and we raised children a bit more dictatorially back then LOL, although I raised the now 24 year old grandchild the same way and while she didn’t always like it, she managed to survive quite nicely. We laugh about it now, in fact. She’ll tell me all the things her friends did when she was in high school, and is amazed to learn that I probably knew they were doing them before she did. She complained now and then, but we had had an understanding from the time she was a tot that she and I could talk about anything……and as she got older, anything covered a LOT of territory…..but that the final say was mine. I always explained my reasons out of courtesy to her, but the bottom line was, is, and always will be “my house, my rules”. My son got fiesty one time as a teen and announced in front of two girls from down the street that he was moving out. They looked at each other, and went tearing for the door. I asked them where they were going, and they said they were going to get their stuff because they wanted his room….and they were serious. He immediately reconsidered his options and decided that going to a concert with a bunch of kids who were older than him who “were known to law enforcement” really wasn’t a prime imperative after all.

leonard waks

Dear Dee,

My guess is that we are on the same page – or at least more on the same page than most others. I am now 70, and my son is 21. I am very aware of how difficult it is really to know the mind of even your own child.

My parents really never thought through the issues of parenting – a lot what on automatic pilot in those days. I don’t know whether the dangers were fewer, but the concerns seemed to be. We were out all day long on weekends riding our bikes around New York City by the time we were 8. As far as my folks were concerned, that was fine – so long as we weren’t in the house!

I had one incident with my folks when I was a senior in High School in 1959. I wanted to go to the Thelonious Monk midnight jazz concert at Town Hall. This is, and remains, a historic night in the history of New York jazz. My mother told me that if I went to this concert I needn’t bother coming home.She really had no idea of what the event was or why I would wish to go, and probably never even thought to ask. I went with a number of friends, and came home around three am. I will never forget how deeply I resented my mother for that comment; I was surely a better judge of what was valuable for me culturally than she was by the time I was 17. In some ways this remains a touchstone event for me: it simply strikes me as arrogant and destructive for parents to tell grown late teens – adults in every sense – that they cannot do simple things of great personal value. If they want to entiely destroy their relationships with their children, this looks to me like an excellent model to follow.

So in my own parenting I have tried to encourage my son to discover such things and go for it; I worked long and hard to be a decent and trustworthy guide, but I understood that by his late teens he had to be making his own judgments about life. By that time the tables had started to turn – his life wasn’t a democracy and I didn’t really have a vote.

Dee Wheat

I think maybe a lot of it is how you do it. I always told mine why the answer was no, and would even listen to an organized rebuttal. At the end of the day, though, I worked in big city emergency medicine and had seen every single atrocity man can visit upon his fellow man and then some, and there were simply some things I absolutely would not tolerate. My kids were allowed to go to concerts….several of them, in fact, and at one in Oakland they had backstage passes because I did a wound check on a grateful roadie LOL. However, I treated privileges like food. I work, I buy it, I cook it, you eat it. My son’s favorite food from the time he was a toddler was cauliflower. His friends thought he was nuts LOL, but he would happily suck down an entire head, and I never put cheese on it. My kids ate vegetables, fruits, and meats, because that’s what was in the fridge and they knew that was what they were expected to eat. On occasion they would miss some activity that I just couldn’t find a comfort zone for, and they didn’t always like it, but they knew why, and generally were pretty good about it. As long as you can present them with a valid reason, and “because I said so” is NOT a valid reason, you’d be amazed how much they can be willing to compromise.

The fun part comes when they call you and say, “Do you remember when you wouldn’t let me do XXXXXX?” Yeah. “Why do you always have to be right? All that stuff you told me that I didn’t want to hear….why did it all have to be true?” That’s when you just sit back and smile LOL.

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Naval Gupta

Very educative and timely. I am going to share it with fellow colleagues and friends.
Good work.

Thanks!
N

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Dee Wheat

I was online before there was an internet, when monitors came in amber and green, and text was deleted with the backspace key. Yeah, we really did that LOL. Then I retired, and lived on a mountain top with no TV, no computer access, for years.

When I finally reluctantly rejoined civilization, I decided to take the plunge. I bought my hardware, and called my phone company, which back then was my only provider choice. I quickly realized that this was not even remotely like the access that I had had, and the tech lady and I were on the phone for about 20 minutes, and I still didn’t know how to initiate dialup. I had an eight year old granddaughter living with me, and the woman finally said, “Put the eight year old on the phone. It’ll be faster and easier, and she can teach you.”

Seventy three seconds, literally, later, and we had an open connection to the world that my eight year old knew FAR more about than I did, and that simply is not acceptable. I made it my goal to know much more than she did, and quickly, because my gut told me I had just placed her in danger.

She’s now 24, and I still know more than she does….about lots of things, but especially about computers and the danger that lurks in the ether. She passes warnings and knowledge along to her friends, most of whom have small children, all the time. Hopefully it makes some impact.

One of the problems, though, is that the ease of pirating pics and such, as well as altering them, makes it a breeze for pornographers, predators, and pedophiles to take a sweet and perfectly innocent pic and transform it into something dark and ugly.

Point in fact: a friend of mine posted some baby Christmas pic to Facebook for a friend of hers, professional studio pics. Unfortunately, one of them showed the baby laying on her side, and her little hand had slid down and was resting on her onesie right over the target area. I called my friend immediately and told her to get that off there and why. She said that someone doing something like that would never have occurred to her, but that she would absolutely be hyperaware of it in the future.

Ryan, I applaud you for doing this work. It’s not for the faint of heart. When I worked trauma ER, I saw far too many damaged kids, and I know what it’s like for a decent, caring person to have to spend their time chin deep in a cesspool that is far more foul than anyone who has not experienced it themselves. It’s also a subject that makes people very uncomfortable, which sometimes forces you to be more aggressive about forcing them to listen and learn than you’d like, and that doesn’t always make you the most popular guy in the room either,

You are, though, without question, one of the good guys. At the end of most days, it’ll do.

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Anonymous

I went through these kinds of trials as a kid long before we ever heard of Al Gore’s Internet, before PCs existed. The network these creeps had around the globe back then was astounding. Photos he took of me as a child here in the States, years later when an adult, I learned, were in a slick glossy magazine from Germany with many other exploited boys.

It is terrifying to consider what that networks of creeps is now with the incredible proliferation of media, online and off. Our world is truly sinking into a deeper and darker world than we had just a few years ago.

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Gary

What a bunch of mindless propaganda! All part of the gov’t plan to scare people into giving up their civil rights. Why make the dubious assumption that because there are more convictions there is an epidemic of criminals out there. Would not the more logical conclusion be that the cops are doing a good job and more criminals were getting caught and prosecuted. Maybe everything is working just fine and the cops don’t need expanded powers

Jonathon

Have you read the full article and its resulting comments?

I, too, felt like there was more fear mongering throughout the article (especially from the FBI rep) than I cared to read. If one is fearful before reading this they were probably scared to death by the end of it, when the reality of the situation is that chances of a child running into a predator is tiny.*

However, the chances of a child running into a predator are not zero, so there’s no reason why parents shouldn’t be aware of the dangers and be armed with solutions. A good relationship with open communication doesn’t just benefit the child and parent, but society at large.

And that is exactly what this article concludes.

Granted, there was some verbiage in the article that suggests that the FBI and Google** should be doing more, but I felt that such comments were more naive than a call to arms.

I was pleased to find out that after all of the talk that suggested that children are under a constant, every-day threat, that the article places the onus on the parents to be parents, rather than looking to the government for protection.

I was also concerned that the reader comments would be riddled with questions that would equate to, “why isn’t the government doing more about this? We should censor the internet better!”

I was surprised and pleased to find civil, level-headed comments from people – mirroring that the onus is, as it should be, on the parents helping their children make common sense decisions. At the time of this writing I did not find a single comment that suggested that any authority group needed expanded powers.

I expected the worst and found the best. Thank you, MUO readers!

_______________
* A July 13 2009 United Nations report entitled, “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography” by Najat M’jid Maalla found “that there are approximately 750,000 sexual predators using the Internet to try to make contact with children for the purpose of sexually exploiting them.”

January of the same year estimated approximately 1.5 billion people using the internet worldwide, so a truly random encounter with a sexual predator is about 0.5%. Miniscule, especially for US households. The worldwide numbers include Asia, India, and Africa, where the human trafficking/slavery business is more prevalent.

Of course a predator will hunt for children in places where children hang out, so we can’t rely on the 0.5% random encounter number. The risk is still relatively small, but worth the time to write and read articles like these, as long as the call to action is placed on the parents’ job to educate, warn, and protect their children rather than the government.

** As a side note, barely related to Gary’s comment: just because Google refused to issue a statement does not mean that they haven’t made a stance on the issue.

Google does not condone illegal content of any kind, blocks child porn from its search results, and filters identified porn by default. They use both software and human viewers to keep child porn off their search results in both Google and YouTube. Read the BBC’s “Google tackles child pornography” article for more information.

Jonathon

(not sure why my comment was posted as one giant paragraph… that’s not how I submitted it)

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Lucy Coursol

Thank you so much for the great article! I can’t say enough about how great your web site is and the information I receive.

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Kurt Schilling

Outstanding article. Thank you for taking the time to bring this to the group. It should be very widely disseminated. Predators of the young to my way of thinking have essentially removed themselves from being humans. However, as Quaker I have to say that there IS something of G_d in them, just so buried that it may never see the Light. Parents and non-parents must be vigilant to protect the young. It may well irritate the kids to be subject to being restricted, but I’d much rather have them irritated than harmed.

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Rogerio da Silva

What kind of spam check is this? There are several other languages that would like to discuss about child pronography too.
Wha I was saying is, that I would like to help more voluntaring and maybe placing banners on my websites and share with friends over here in Brazil.
Is there any contact with police of any other group that work on this matter in South America?
I lived for several years in UK and Italy, we hear more often about such initiative, but over here in BRazil still a bit blur regarding child exploration.

If there is any group I would like to participate, as I find this very disturbing, just not fair with children and parents, certainly not normal.

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Wilf Staton

Congratulations to Microsoft for taking an active part in helping to track these sick people. I have 3 granddaughters and fear for them all the time. They are smart but even they could be tricked.

Typical of Google, more interested in tasking people for normal things that they think may affect their bottom line than than taking any corporate responsibility.

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Anonymous

Sick MF’s

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Shmuel Mendelsohn

I think that it’s an obligation for every parent to read this article. It should be printed and distributed to every elementary/middle/high school!

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Lacey Williams

Great article and wonderful investigations Great article great advice I really learned alot on how people are and what I should do as a parent!1

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Guy

Ryan, even though I’m a friend of yours I can say without prejudice, this is the MOST important article ever published on MakeUseOf.com. Thank you, Mark, Jackson, Aibek…everyone involved in getting this article online.

I hope it gets picked up by major dailies.

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udi

Hi,
The subject you are covering is an important one but I think your article is alarmist and possibly misleading. the section entitled “The FBI Story – The Problem is Getting Worse” for instance doesn’t include any indication that it is getting worse. the fact that nobody is actively searching the hundreds of millions of web sites for illicit material is not surprising and neither is the fact that law enforcement is charged with investigating reported crimes rather than randomly seeking it out. companies and organisations always behave in ways that protect them from harm and embarrassment so this shouldn’t be surprising either. I also wouldn’t be surprised if google and others also had technologies in use to spot offenders but just didn’t want to be drawn into discussing them publicly.

I heard an expert on the subject from the australian federal police, the body that investigates this stuff and while he too couldn’t estimate the relative prevalence of the exploitation compared to the past, he said that the figures for abduction and physical exploitation which they do have a handle on, don’t seem to have changed since the agency was first charged with this task, long before the existence of the internet.

having said all that, I too am a parent of an almost 13yo and am of course concerned to keep him safe in life. The advice about educating your children, warning them and monitoring them is of course sound. nothing is foolproof but forewarned is forearmed.

I would also like to add that we should also be educating our children and showing them by example how to empathise with others and treat them with respect. after all, child abusers have parents too.

Jeremy Garnett

Sadly, I don’t reckon the problem is getting worse. I think it is merely more obvious. Looking at history, the treatment of children has come a long way. Unfortunately, I suspect that, like slavery, child predation will never completely be excised from humanity’s path.

I have some hope for our collective future, however, in that through awareness projects or other media such as this article, the wider community is beginning to see the extent of the problem.
I hope that they may therefore be more willing to discuss, to debate, to take action in the prevention of such predation. I hope also, than in time, we might come to understand and then to repair our society, that such predators can be treated, or merely don’t come into existence.

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Cliff

Is there a way to check our local machines to remove porn or poor content?

Jonathon

Nothing that is truly effective. Just about every program that exists to block porn can be circumvented. Your child, having much more free time to educate his- or herself on how to successfully find the forbidden content, will likely always be one step ahead of you.

The problem is compounded by the fact that your child may be viewing objectionable material via their xbox, phone, tablet, or other misc device. Teens who share this interest often discuss tactics and technology at school. In fact, I used to practice getting around controls while in class at school, and of course all my friends thought it was cool and wanted to learn how to do it themselves.

That is why this article points out that the best thing you can do is keep open lines of communication and impart the importance/reasoning behind the pros and cons of viewing porn.

But to actually answer your question, you can view and clear your browser’s cache contents. How to do those things depends upon which browser your family uses, so search for “x cache” (where X is the name of your browser) to find more information.

Chances are your kid is savvy enough to not leave a “paper trail”. When I was a teen I cleared my browser’s cache and history files and kept objectionable files on a USB thumb drive or would hide a folder on my camera’s memory card. These days you can hide and/or password protect files and folders on any smart phone (and many “dumb” phones). There’s an app for that.

Another approach was to hide files in plain sight by renaming “porn.jpg” as “creative_writing_assignment.doc”.

So don’t expect to “win” unless you want to be extremely invasive and invest many hours into the problem. You can try software like Snitch and Media Detective, installing a rootkit, utilizing your operating system’s parental controls, or using hardware such as the Porn Detection Stick, but where there’s a will, there’s a way.

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Just Me

For those of you who think it is invading the child’s privacy, I would rather invade their privacy then have them hurt. That is MY job as a parent. Not the FBI’s, Google’s, Facebook’s, or anyone else’s. This is not the world we grew up in. Here is another interesting link… http://8minutesoffame.com/behindthecurtain/

Still want to give your kids that privacy? My favorite is the Pedophile forums… google the name in the pics, it will come right up for you.

Laurie

Your job as a parent is to teach your children to recognise risks, give them the tools to manage situations, and then let them develop self sufficiency. Sometimes this means trusting them enough to give them space to make their own mistakes and learn from them.

My youngest child is now 19, and my oldest 32. I didn’t constantly monitor their internet activities, but I did teach them what I could and kept up an honest dialogue with them. They are all very Web savvy, much more so than I am. They haven’t been ruined by child porn monsters.

There are risks in every area of life, and you won’t always be there to protect them.

Just Me

My job as a parent is to do whatever is necessary to keep them from great harm. I let them take calculated risks, that its how they lessen. However, to let a risk of them becoming a victim of a predator when a simple program or my paying attention to what they are doing would help keep them safe is a no brainer. And my oldest is 20 and
my youngest is 17. They knew I monitored
them and we talke about it often. They were ok with it, since they werent doing anything wrong. That level of risk is not the same as letting them touch a overwarm surface to learn hot! Did you go read the link I posted? The pedofile forum with people asking correct techniques? So, yeah, to keep my kids away from those people, I taught them skills, gave them tools and rules, and I enforced them with the technical spyware to “meet” the people they talked to. Just like I met their friemds and their parents before my kids went to their houses. Its so easy to lower the risk, it os negligance when a parent won’t. Sorry for the rant, but I work in a er and get to see the aftermath, also sorry for typos, I am using my phone to respond. :)

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carl

this is a disgrace. to the good for me my kids are pretty much beyond the peril. but I had no idea the passivity throughout this scourge. good that you put a bright light on it and MS was a pleasant surprise

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Anonymous

Interesting article and well researched. Unusually ‘serious’ for makeusof, which is good. I have recently started wondering about how to manage this.
On one hand, I have a 3 years old who, like I presume all the new generation, is surprisingly at ease with tablets and user interfaces.
On the other hand, I started a job as a moderator with online communities with a prevalently young demographic. So I see what the guidelines are, what kind of interaction develop, and wonder about the effectiveness of it all beyond keeping providers free of legal liability.
At 10 years old I read by chance Turkle’s The Second Self, which focussed fascinatingly on technology and children, and two years later started using Pack networks, meaning I was able to chat with people all over the world well before the internet became mainstream.
Not for a moment I ever considered that as a risk, neither did my parents, who admittedly had a limited understanding of what I was doing.
But as a parent I know what is all about, and a whole world of people is there interacting, not the handful of geeks I chatted with as a child, ages ago.
And what I am going to tell my child, me that I thought talking with perfect strangers from all over the world was the coolest thing in the world. that I don’t trust his judgement? Yes, probably. Will that push him away from something I after all still consider a great opportunity to get to know other cultures with the clear mind most people only have when young? Or perhaps he will be fiddling as I did with new things beyond my understanding, as what I did was beyond my parents understanding. Not sure, but I am somewhat worried.

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christine st.syr griffin

thank you Ryan you are a HERO for using your talent. as a writer and utilizing the exposure at makeuseof reminding the masses the boogie man is real and demons do lurk everywhere not just in hidden dark alleys. it made me cry and now i need to go tell my son how much i love him. i want to be a hero too
christine

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Chuck Cloninger

I’m sure that everyone who speaks against monitoring children on the Internet has the best of intentions but, in my house, I will make sure my children are safe. My kids are great, they are generally cautious and careful and would never intentionally put themselves in danger. But the perverts who prey on children are “experts” in getting close to children. If you don’t believe it just look at the number of children who fall victim to them and to the parents who NEVER thought it would happen to their children. Children who had been told countless times to be careful and who had been told by their parents what to do and not do on the Internet.

I have always felt it is my job as a father to teach my children how to get along in this world without me. And as they grow I give them more and more responsibility and freedom in an age appropriate way. But they are my children and their safety and well being is my responsibility and I am charged by my higher power to do ALL that I can to do get them to adulthood with the right values and with a knowledge of how the world works so they don’t get too hurt and battered as they make their way through. As their father I not only have the right to monitor their activities I have the DUTY to do so in order to maintain their safety.

I remember watching a video one time taken of children in families who were hunters and believed in keeping guns in the home. Each of the parents, mostly the fathers, talked about how they had spent hours and hours talking to their children about gun safety and how to safely and responsibily handle guns. So they were absolutely stunned when they saw videos of their children being handed (unloaded by gun experts) guns and the way their children disregarded all the rules of gun safety as they showed off to their friends. It really opened my eyes and I recalled my days as a child and some of the many stupid things I did then.

So, as far as the safety of my children is concerned, I will be a very protective parent and more than willing to take the responsibility for it. As my children know that in our house “no means no” I don’t really think there will be significant problems but I am willing to deal with them if their are. But I will know that I have done all that I could do to keep them safe.

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Anonymous

Thanks for getting his out there. It’s things like this that make me want to find the monsters doing things like this to children and hurt them. I really don’t understand what makes sexual predators want what they do. It just seems to be beyond me I guess.

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Anonymous

This is not an Internet case but a warning just the same.
About 3 weeks ago we received a message that our 31 year old grand daughter was in hospital; she had her whole bowel removed because the abdomen was that filthy that parts could not be separated. So we prayed she might come through. Not long after we were praying that she might die. The doctors wanted to take the legs off as well. She died. A good thing.
She was a loving and loveable child as grand parents would say. When she turned 16 she was initiated in the world of drugs, heroin administered by a female and when the time was ripe this generous female gave our grandchild her boyfriend, a second present so to say.
Certain people are trying to make a saint of her for the public. This is not necessary for those who really loved her.
Therefore I ask politely that you publish all names so that the evil truth may spread, no cover-ups for people who still have the primordial slime dripping from them.
Her name is: VANESSA van HERP, SYDNEY, NSW, AUSTRALIA.
My name is Henk van Herp, Gorokan, NSW, Australia.

We LOVE you Vanessa , you are beautiful.

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Dorfmeister Vazquez

internet is a bigger tool to explore worlds and unfortunately exist that kind of problems.. 2bad

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TOMr

Your article just made up my mind to stay registered with MakeUseOf… Greatest article MakeUseOf has produced (a few had irritated me in the past, but never mind that now). And the responses have been great. I have saved the WHOLE thread for distribution to my friends, many of whom still think the Internet is as friendly a place as their local neighbourhood… Thank you once more.

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Bruce Crawford

I belive the real problem is the lack of parental knowledge and ability to control themselves and there childrens behaviour, particularly on the internet. Why do we need to give our children unfettered access to the internet in the privasy of there bedrooms? If you give it to them they will tell you that everyone has it and needs it if your children are not taught to respect the good and bad things that are on the internet they will do what they like, afterall they are only human. Wake up parents!! Stop letting you children walk all over you. You are the adult, you make the rules. I am a father with 3 20-23 year old girls and 1 11 year old boy. Nobody gets private access to the internet in our home until they can prove they are responsibe enough to handle it.

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Jonathon

Great article.

As an IT and Security Consultant I can say that the problem is definitely very big. Yet it is important to bring balance. We can not expect law enforcement to monitor anything, just like we do not routinely invite them into our homes to check for illegal behaviors. Besides, law enforcement is so overtaxed that they are often only able to handle the cases that are brought to them.

I offer and present Internet safety classes, and I often consult with parents. The amount of apathy is really appalling. I say this because parents and even empowered children are major keys to fighting this issue.

Technological solutions are great and bring lots of power to the hands of parents, educators and leaders. However, these tools are not a substitute for good parenting. If I filter my Internet my children might still use a neighbors Internet that is open and not filtered. They might also access the Internet from a device other than a computer and even from a friends home.

I could relate lots of experiences but one sticks out more than any other. One evening, while monitoring a site that I previously helped to manage I noticed some activity that was more than a little troubling. It was not a predator, but a child that was exhibiting dangerous behavior. I did a little recnnasence on that individual and I was shocked to discover he had posted on another forum a request, basically he was complaining that he was very upset with his parents and that he wanted someone to just take him away. He had actually published contact information with that post. In this case I was able to identify his parents and made contact with them, for obvious reasons.

As the father of two children I am more than a little concerned but I am also realistic. If we will teach and empower our children, and if we will make sure they are comfortable with being open with us, we will help them to remain safe. After all, they are the ones that ultimately must learn to take responsibility for there own lives.

Jonathon

Just as an FYI to others: there are at least two people writing comments as “Jonathon” on here. It looks like we have a lot in common, but please notice that this Jonathon should not take the brunt of something offensive that I may have written… and vice versa!

I wrote replies to Cliff and Gary, this other Jonathon did not.

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RJWood

We need more positive reports like this. It takes courage and integrity to step up and take an moral and ethical position on issues. Good for you!

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RJWood

It takes a lot of courage to take a moral and ethical stand on issues like this. I fully support MakeUseOf.com and would like to see more articles and research into hard topics that will challenge us as US citizens. God Bless America!

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Keith Smith

A good thought provoking article.

There are a couple of points raised in the article and some of the comments that ring true for me:
– they feel safe because that are at home
– they do not have the maturity to comprehend what is out there.

Sure, I have monitoring and blocking software active on the family PC and I have been open about why certain things are blocked and why they are monitored. And yes I do get the “don’t be silly daddy, I know all about that” but the key is to talk to them, discuss openly the potential pitfalls and issues, but what ever you do do not accuse and make them defensive. Easier said than done believe me.

Of course, software on the home PC covers access from home, but what do you do when they are out or at a friends house? using somebody else’s mobile phone that has internet access? Hopefully, the open discussions you have had with them will help them to steer a safe path, but the dangers will always be there.

Basically as a parent, I do all I can to help them be safe inside, outside an online but all the time aware that they do need to learn and grow, particularly in the information age. Am I worried and concerned? You bet, aren’t you?

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Mark

An excellent article, not least because it has the depth that the subject rarely recieves.

I have a poblem with the companies in the information business who feel they have no need to report what they find in the course of the their business. If they were to come across real world criminality on or near their premises, I think most people would expect them to report it to the police, so why not online? I see no good reason why a service provider, on finding evidence that a user has been distributing or storing images of child abuse, should not have a channel to routinely report the find and supply the evidence to athe authorities. We expect this in cases of physical assault, fraud etc, so why not here? Or do some businesses feel they are above the societies in which they operate?

Most parents would want to protect their children, but a great many – perhaps even a majority – are let down by either their own lack of understanding of technology, or by the many poor implementations of “parental controls” that exist. Poor either in the sense of being too complex/opaque for the parents to use effectively, or so badly designed they fail badly at the job for which they were purchased and are easily circumvented by kids whose tech literacy often surpasses their parents. I think this an area that would benefit greatly from some clearly thought out basic standards and validation from a trusted industry or government body. “Try it and see” just isnt good enough, and many offerings begin to resemble the ‘scareware’ tactics of the anti virus crowd, drowing users in with inexplicable buttons and meaningless technobabble rather than offering something both usable and safe.

I’m also surprised, in a world increasingly full of multi device households, not to see more online child protection based around centralised devices such as routers or inexpensive hardware firewalls working in concert with software on computers and devices. What there is is often very limited in scope.

There’s no substitute for engaging with your kids, but technology also plays a part. Most people wouldn’t live next to a busy urban road without having a fence of something to stop young children thoughtlessly chasing a ball into the busy traffic.

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Scott Macmillan

Extremely informative.A very disturbing look at a serious internet issue that calls for a discussion on how truly free the internet can and should be.I am a Libertarian and stand against the erosion of freedoms to post on the internet in a great many nations and the ease of our own government to track those it deems security risks,but the issue of child porn and human slavery on the net is so horrific and anti-human that it is causing myself to have a rethink of what net freedom should mean.I applaud Bing for its approach to the problem and would hope that other E-sites attempt to further methods of fighting the problem without curtailing our current freedoms.

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Stathis Magerakis

Great article. Thank you.

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Don

Great article Ryan. Thank you for writing it, it has obviously started a good dialog here. My only concern is that I feel that it downplays the responsibility that we have, as parents, to protect our children. The reason I feel this way is that parents responsibilities were not discussed until the end and the begging of the article seems to suggest that we rely on internet companies like Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Twitter to protect us. I would not more rely on those companies to protect my child that I would rely on them to make sure that my mortgage gets paid on time.

Anyone who enjoyed reading this article, as I did, should consider reading “Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe (and Parents Sane)” by Gavin de Becker.

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Mitch Graves

Way back when I went to college and was working a two radio stations I has a professor teaching the harmlessness of porn. As an 11 yr old I was exposed to hard core porn (Winter) when my buddies father brought boxes home. I went into a tailspin that took me from an “A” student to flunking out within a year. I called the teacher on it and he told me to prove it to him in front of the class. It took me a few hours in the library but I found that essentially 100% of every scientific study done of it shows that porn is devastating to all boys and many girls. There has never ever been any legit study that disputes it. The damage is MANY times greater than the worst possible effects of violent entertainment…unless of course sex is intertwined with the violence. As far as damage goes; porn is to violence as heroin is to soda. A child can be wrecked in a couple of hours. Only being molested is more damaging.
As a parent I was prepared: ALL TV’s and computers must be used in family areas. No child has access to either when alone…ever. No sleep overs. my wife and I previewed every Movie. As soon as we were able we recorded all shows ahead of time to have of them.

Let me be clear here …we did NOT shelter our kids.. we protected them. They know all about the facts of life, they just have not watched it occurring.

You may wonder the results:
All 4 are ‘A’ Students, musicians, leaders of every group they are in, nationally ranked athletes, and exceedingly happy.
There were virtually NO nightmares in their lives.
The eldest 23 just graduated Mcl (missed ScL by a fifth of a point) with dual majors in Hist *& Econ.
first two are training for the 2016 Olympics at the Colorado Springs Olympic Training Center.
#3 started college at 15 and #4 will this fall at 16 yr old.
We are asked to speak about our amazing children and do all we can.
Kids have NO right to privacy unless they are on the toilet and any parent that thinks so is probably being lazy. If you love them you’ll watch over them and they will adore you when they are older. When I visited the OTC there was a group of other athletes and school friends who demanded they get to meet us because of how our daughters speak of us.
YEP!!! they did think we were too strict at times but they lived and NOW they thanks us all the time. ALL of them counsel their peers who are all messed up due to permissive parents and lazy ones.

In case you think I’m making this all up: http://www.gravesjudo.com

Know any new parents?
Do them a favor and get this book for them…it is that very best one we’ve ever heard of:
HOW TO TRAIN UP A CHILD -by Daniel Pearl

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Alan Craig

Scary, yet informative, thank you for writing this article. I hadn’t even really considered game consoles as something dangerous, but people chat on there all the time with people they know nothing about, usually during a game they are both playing which already gives them a “shared interest” which of course would lower a childs defenses (even if just a little) against the other person. From there they may add them as a friend, and before you know it some pervert is trying to convince your child they should meet and hang out. I imagine many other parents had not thought about this either… Thank you again for reminding us just how real this threat is, and that we really have to think through what we allow our children to do, and to try to be a part of their activities, so we know who they are talking to and interacting with.

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Yvonne Jackson

Hi All
I am glad to read this article and know it will save a lot of our young. Thanks

Chris

I don’t care what anyone thinks, I am not interested in my child’s “privacy” – this is my child and I must do all that i possibly can as a parent to protect my child from the “horrors” that the internet can throw up including porn – I monitor everything my child is doing online! If she doesn’t like it I’d rather throw out the computer and deal with tantrums than have to deal with some sinister happening. At least I know that I’m trying to do the best I can. WHile she lives under my roof, I’m the boss… Sounds a bit rough I know, but there is no other option. Protecting her is all I care about.

Alan Craig

Agreed, I don’t know how I could live with myself if something happened, and I knew that I could have prevented it, if only I cared less about her “privacy” and how she felt about things she’s not even old enough to make mature decisions about. In the end her saftey matters above all else. Explain things to your children, tell them about the horrors, that are out there and let them read a couple of well chosen articles. And let them know, that it’s not about trust or freedom, it’s about protecting them because you care.

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Anonymous

Thanks for the article. I’m a parent of a boy aged 13. He has his own laptop and plays games a lot. I think I must be more careful and ‘monitor’ his activities.

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John O’Shaughnessy

This is a good article, recommended reading for a lot of people, especially parents.. Thanks.

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Lisa Santika Onggrid

I’m a teenage girl who grows up with books and computers. While I have my own set of rules in the internet and know where to use my real identity and how much I could disclose, there are many people my age who don’t care as much. Some of the reasons have connection with teenage rebellion. Some parents pressure them too much, prying to their online lives that they think ‘screw it, I’m gonna do it.’ That could led to abduction and other unwanted things. Reprimanding can only get you so far. If you’re a parent, then hold a civilized, open discussion.

The concept of ‘trust’ has to be taught early on. By providing place for your children to tell their emotional distraught, there are less chance they’ll do it online to strangers. Trusting real-life friends is one thing. Trusting online friends is another. With the rising level of participation in the internet, many seems to give both same level of treatment, which is blatantly dangerous.
On the other hand, people covering such things are potentially harming children. The more they know, the better they’ll become.They’re curious by nature, so taking a stranger’s offer might sound exciting to some.
FBI, companies, and parents might try, but at the end it lies on the children’s own hands.

Laurie

I applaud your comments, which show much more maturity than many of the hysterical adult responses here. For parents it’s about educating and understanding your children, and giving them some empowerment to enable them to become self sufficient and manage the risks themselves, without constant parental supervision. Always at a level appropriate to the child’s level of maturity of course.

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tyson granger

very informative and eye opening!

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Molly N

Thank you so much for publishing this article!!

I enjoy your site for the information it gives out on technology, but now I have a greater respect for your site because it has addressed such a horrible issue.

I am working with a theatre company in MN, where we put on productions to educate children from 5 to 18 years old, on how to keep safe from inappropriate touch, how to recognize when someone is being inappropriate, sexual predators, internet safety, etc. We present play(s) that educate, then speak to the children and parents afterwards on how to stay safe and what to do if anything (God forbid) should happen.

We have been doing these productions for over 6 years and we truly have a passion to reach and educate all children and adults.

Thank you again!! Keep up the awesome awareness!!

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Prashanth Rathore

superb article……….!! :)

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Syed Fouzan

Its really distressing to know that such people exist around us , trying to lure teenagers .
I pray that teenagers know when to back-off at the slightest sign of doubt .
Thanks for the article, really an eye-opener .

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Paulo Delgado

This was a sad article and something needs to be done about this issue.

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Sean McShane

I Have a friend that is nuts and talks to random’s and i just tell him don’t be stupid his mum found out now he is in trouble

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Socially Networked

I believe what could be the most grotesque observation to be make would be the immense group of individuals who readily examined the link entitled “Unfortunate Truths about Child Pornography and the Internet”. Essentially, the physical evolution of man may have halted, but cultural and social ideologies have become hegemonic icons representing an individual’s identity.

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Ken Jones

Excellent piece of investigative journalism. Please keep it coming. Thank You!

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T.Aswin kumar

very much needed info in today’s world of surfing….
hats off to makeuseof team….

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Tóti

Scare piece, backs up old stereotypes, nothing relevant to the discussion or anything anyone can us for good.

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John Galt

Typical the solution to the problem is some big brother organization whom many of ewe will gladly allow to usurp our liberty. Apparently the adage is true lemmings keep raising lemmings. The responsability for ones children lies on the very shoulders it always has, the parent. Thank you Google for protecting our constitution. I would thank the FBI for their answers to the questions; which would seem to be in accordance to constitutional law, but I happen to be a former NSA employee and know that government agencies have nothing but contempt for our laws. The unofficial policy is anything goes and if you are caught neither confirm nor denie. Thus I make recompense for having served the beast by providing true patriotss the means to communicate without fear of prying eyes.

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Charles Thomerson

The purpose of my comment is two-fold…

First, I have had many “discussions” with my family about online predators… from the beginning it is of utmost importance that they understand the facts as they are and after reading this article; it is apparent that most anything you need for an informative conversation is right here in the article. Be honest and forthcoming from the onset with your family… it isn’t them you don’t trust; it is the predators. You’re only interest and objective is to protect them and minimize the potential risk of exposure.

They are smarter and more savvy than you think nowadays, so don’t let your guard down.

Second, a big thanks for a great article written by Ryan… I look to makeuseof for several passages of making my technical life easier, but this article I actually stumbled upon while searching through the site and I am glad I read it and will definitely (with your permission) print it out and give it to some of my friends who still have children at home using the internet for their resources.

This just instils in me why I love what makeuseof has done for my household over the years… Merry Christmas!

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AP

It was surprising that most of the tech biggies don’t have a self monitoring system, There cooperation after the crime is done dosen’t reflect a genuine sensibility on there part.

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Fake Name

I do not believe it when the FBI says that they aren’t setting-up sites or trolling the net to catch those looking for CP…remember- cops don’t have any obligation to tell you the truth and deception is a big part of their M.O.

BTW, does it scare anyone that MS is searching your files on SkyDrive without your knowledge? Gee, I wonder if they are also doing the same to your PC as well? Better not have a petite wife doing nudes because it’ll come up as a match and then they’ll have to go through your files manually, meaning untold numbers of people are going to see her snatch.

Next, while acknowledging the threat of sexual predators out there, we (as in society), really need to take a good hard look at ourselves in the mirror. Just about every TV program out there promotes sexuality, and some shows like Toddlers and Tiara’s, make it their business to sexualize, well, TODDLERS! What’s more- the PARENTS ARE THE ONES PUSHING THIS GARBAGE!

The media promotes physical beauty above all else, and being a slut sells (hello, Kardashian’s and Ms. Hilton.). Going through a WalMart, one will find undergarments that would have only been sold at a Victoria’s Secret ten years earlier…but these are marketed towards KIDS! (hello PINK?) And let’s not even begin to talk about the music industry!

Yup, the media and society are instilling the notion that in order to succeed in life (if you’re a female), then the only thing you have to do is make a sex tape (which covers about 99% of the female entertainment workers currently, including those who worked for Disney for christsake!).

The truth is that this ‘innocent’ little girls are pushing this smut themselves. Phones with cameras + the internet + raging hormones = plenty of tween pornography made by the ‘exploited child’ herself.

SRSLY, to those who have boys: I hope that none of you has to go to court to defend him because his GF sent him a nude picture of herself, her parents found out, and pressed charged against your boy for possessing child pornography. Don’t laugh- it happens…A LOT.

And let’s talk about that for minute- a 15 year old would be tried as an adult in a heartbeat, but apparently it’s illegal for them to do something totally organic to human nature. The laws themselves are badly written and need updated: either a person is responsible enough for decisions while under 18 or they are not.

Finally, there is a picture I saw on the net a long time ago. It was a parody of those motivational posters one sees all over the place. This one had a fully-clothed teen or tween licking the crotch of a naked doll. The words of it said: “Pedophile, because little girls have become sluts”.

Truer words couldn’t have been written.

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Fake Name

OK nevermind…I can’t seem to inject line breaks for whatever reason.

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Giovanni olak

Nice post.Indeed children need to be totally protected from dangers in the form of humans.

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fainom enous

Nice article. Ofcourse parents must discuss everything with their child from their very early years and to keep an eye on them on the web too. But to say to them ‘ i will see everything you do’ -especially to teens i dont think that will bring right effects. Or the opposite to buy them every tech device its on market or that its unneccesary

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Lucas Stephens

This is a great article. It is a well known issue, but little seems to be done on a continual basis. It seems to only be reported in spurts. This disgusting abuse of childsren may never be stamped out without drastic international legislation. Are we willing to go that far to protect children and other victims? I think this may be one time where “free speech”, if termed in this category, is a bad thing.

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Wanda

few years ago, I made a spelling error in url address and came upon a porn site by mistake… what a surprise, did not realize how easily on can access these sites.. unless parents monitor their children’s access, it scares me to think what they can access

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Anonymous

Its really useful article. I just turned 19 today and after studying this article I feeling my self unsecured on internet. Me myself talked to lot of person randomly on internet and there are numbers of people who are 30+ in age and act like of same age. I talked to many person in chat rooms and after reaching a comfort level when I do skype with them its make me shock that they are not of that age as they told before. And mostly such people are looking for some sex stuff or to video you on skype after capturing you in there booby trap.

I’m not showing my name over here because I want to share that a person tried to engage with me when I was 14. It was really unexpected for me that he will suddenly do such thing. After some days he again called me to meet him for which I clearly said no and then he threaten me to that he had taken my pics and will send them to my family and friends. I swear that what ever happened on that day it was not my will and even I wasn’t having idea of such thing before. He just find me alone and capture me on that day even i defended but it was like sweet stake and he trapped me. I was 13 then and now I’m 19 but there is still regret in my mind that why this happened to me,why I was unable to defend at that time. I never tell anyone this. I still really feel helpless that I can’t share this with anyone to hep me.

Moderator who read this massage can also do not post it because I don’t know that is it right to share this thing over here.

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Natalie Nelson

Thank you for this excellent article. I will have my husband and my 13 y/o read it. It is for this very reason that the computers in our house are in a public place and that we have Safe Eyes installed. There are too many people out to prey on children. It is sickening. I hope that Google in the future will also be more forthcoming with what they are doing to combat predators.

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Gromo

I’m sixteen, and training for my technician’s cert – I love technology, and I think the Internet is one of the greatest and most useful inventions mankind has ever invented.

But this sort of thing which keeps me from becoming too passionate about Internet “censorship”. The Internet is not some precious inviolable temple – it is more often a cesspool of sin, filth and criminality.

The fact that Internet censorship could be thought to present a threat to our freedoms goes to show that we have become far, far too dependent on the net. This invisible, digital universe we call the Net NEEDS policing. It needs laws, and it needs consequences. Or so help millions who are not only exploited for the sake of evil content, but those who become trapped and addicted to it.

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Rana wadood

Great Article Ryan. You did an excellent job

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MsDeanne

Excellent article. Expanding on this issue is the exposure of porn to young boys through innocent web searches or friends that aren’t supervised. We experienced this with my son. We homeschooled him and were very attentive regarding what he was able to be exposed to. When he was 11 he made friends with another 11 year old. Seemed like a very nice boy. This very nice boy “groomed” our son and eventually exposed him to Internet porn. As young as they were it never occurred to me how prevalent and invasive and aggressive the porn industry is to draw kids in. They use aneme in such sick ways it’s impossible to do a search and not be exposed to it. As well as many other searches. I was so mad at my self and sad for my son to have not seen this coming. It has been a problem for him ever sense. The visual is so engrossing for the young developing mind just as they are entering puberty, they don’t have the maturity to deal with it appropriately. His childhood ended abruptly. He is 15 and has seen more flavors, take your pick-I won’t elaborate, than any R rated movie has to offer. He hates it, continually fights the compulsion it has whenever he’s on the computer. We have ongoing discussions about its implications as well. My job has been to invade his privacy, yes that’s right, to stay one step ahead of him to limit his exposure as much as possible during these critical years of brain development.
Porn is defining what our young boys/men know of as to what to expect in a relationship with a future spouse. It is destroying their future ability to have a strong healthy relationship and family.
Thank you for this article, it is an extremely important topic and I hope we will see more like it!

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Ground__Zero maehz

Not a good idea to go to the FBI ,FBI make everything complex without solution

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Emj Malit Paule

Great article, kudos! I have A LOT of cousins ranging from 10-15 and this worries me a lot. Heck, even the music they listen to troubles me. Will share this with their parents. Time to move the PC out of their rooms I think

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iVad3r Safadieh

Anonymous has taken a lot of steps on twitter to stop pedophiles, by tracking, d0xing and hacking them, i know a friend involved in Anonymous, for more just search for the hashtag #OpPedoHunt on twitter.

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morshed1988

Thanks to share..

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saiket1988

Amazing articles and its awesome..

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Ramandeep Singh

I’ve only seen child porn films not like what’s described here i.e. people blackmail children. (seen here means thumbnails not the video. I’ve no interest in child pornography). Child pornography is such a boring thing. I don’t know why people do it.
If anyone wants me to show the links then don’t do. I’ve seen them randomly and don’t have any links. If I encounter one I’ll surely report.

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