Information from “Internet-Initiated Sex Crimes Against Minors: Implications for Prevention Based on Findings from a National Study” (David Finkelhor, Kimberly J. Mitchell, and Janis Wolak)
Characteristics of Internet Child Predators:
- Most are male, but they can be anyone, male or female, young or old.
- They often hold respectable jobs and community positions.
- People who want to exploit children most often relate more easily to children than to adults. They may also seek employment or volunteer at children’s organizations.
- Many commit offenses against children over a long period of time, often with multiple victims, and have never been caught.
- Characteristics of Child Victims:
- ANY young person can become a victim of an online predator. This includes those who are doing well in school and socialize with a “good” crowd of friends.
- Thinking that your child cannot fall victim to an online predator can give you a false sense of security and make your child even more vulnerable.
Solicitation by a Child Predator:
Technology has made it possible for child predators to gain easy access to children. There are many video sites, blogs, and other social networking sites (such as My Space and Facebook) where individuals can post their thoughts, feelings, and pictures. Through instant messaging (IM), conversations are in real time. In chat rooms, which are like internet coffee shops, many people join in the conversation at once. Some video games have chat rooms and IM as well.
Through these portals, predators can “listen in,” reading conversations, or just check out the profiles of children and scan for children they wish to target. Once the target is identified, the predator will try to strike up a conversation online. From the information the predator has read, he will use such things as the child’s hobbies and other interests to help cement the relationship. This is where the befriending and “grooming” begins. At some point, it is likely that they will instigate a meeting in person in the future. Beware: these perpetrators are very patient. A predator can easily spend months grooming a potential victim, gaining their trust.
Why Young People Meet With Adults:
Most often, young people willingly meet with the perpetrator, not knowing that they are meeting someone who only wishes to use them. Through the online “relationship” they have grown to believe they are in love with the other person and want to meet him in person. However, even though the adult may not have deceived the young person about his identity or even his age, he has deceived her into believing the feelings she has for him are mutual and can easily be seduced into having sexual relations with the perpetrator…relations that are both harmful and illegal.
Some young people agree to meet with the adult just because they want to make their own decisions or they crave adventure and want to take risks. Some do so because they are lonely or because they are curious about sex and want to learn from the “friendly” person they met online.