Not long ago, I sat with a police officer in the RCMP National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre in Ottawa.
As an investigator, his job is to go online and pose as a teenage girl. Within a couple of minutes of his first posting, there were men posting comments, including some blatant sexual suggestions.
The centre helps co-ordinate and stage investigations by police departments across the country and around the world. They’re part of a hi-tech approach by police to catching the pedophiles that use technology to find victims. They believe they are making a difference yet they also speak of a flood of pedophile material online.
Just last month, a new study was released suggesting that fears about children and the Internet may not be what we thought. In fact, we don’t understand the full impact of social networking sites as a hunting ground by predators. In February of 2008, 50 U.S. state attorneys general set up the task force. Members included MySpace, Facebook, Time-Warner, AOL, and Microsoft.
The report says the biggest threat to children online may well be other children who use electronic techniques to bully and threaten other children plus, “those who are at risk often engage in risky behaviours and have difficulties in other parts of their lives.”
The Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University directed the report and added, “Youth report sexual solicitation of minors by minors more frequently (than adult predators), but these incidents are understudied, underreported to law enforcement, and not part of most conversations about online safety.”
One task force member John Phillips, chief executive of Aristotle Corp, said blaming children and their parents is not the answer. It has been pointed out by many experts that young children are often not aware of the risks they run and need better education while parents must take an active role in understanding and monitoring their children’s activities.
The task force also looked at technologies that might help. They looked at 40 ideas such as biometrics, text analysis, audits, and ID authentication and concluded, “we are in a state of cautious optimism, with many submissions showing substantial promise.“
Website of the week: www.bewebaware.ca
Run by Ottawa based Media Awareness Network, it’s a good site with basic information on the Net, the risks and advice for children and parents.
This Sunday, one of the stories on TECH NOW will be a look at how the developed world’s old technology is used and abused in the developing world.
– Be sure to watch Tech Now this Sunday as part of the CTV NEWS at 6 p.m.