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Inappropriate kid stuff

By Terry Joseph
June 02, 2006

Part II --- Part I

Parents anxious to supply children with the best available teaching-aid, leap at the chance of getting them computers with high-speed internet facilities but in the absence of close supervision, the same tool offering unlimited information may also be used for inappropriate communication between adult perverts and your precious kids.

When Marvin Lahkan, a bespectacled and otherwise respectable looking East Indian Trini man living in the US, whose internet chat-room name is Crazy Trini 85, was snared in a sting operation mounted by NBC-Television's Dateline in collaboration with a watchdog group; he became the 130th sexual predator arrested through this means alone.

Thinking he was chatting online with a 14-year-old girl, Lakhan not only suggested sexually deviant interpersonal pursuits but went further, asking her to include the family's house-cat to perform specific acts. Unaware of the set-up and imminent arrest by waiting police officers, the predator told Dateline's Chris Hansen he was "only messing around."

That alone should be enough to warn parents against banishing kids to a bedroom where the computer outfitted with internet access affords a world of adventure. A recent US survey indicates that more than 65 per cent of parents have no idea what their children do on computers for hours each day.

Because the Internet offers anonymity, unsupervised access makes it a potentially dangerous gadget. Except for known friends of comparable age, kids ought not to be allowed on-screen communication with unknown persons for, without parental control, if only for the sense of adventure it brings, the child will attempt to establish a chat; perhaps with a perverted stranger.

Hiding behind screen pseudonyms, predators convene, swapping child pornography, inciting each other, sharing conquest stories (real or fantasised), discussing ways to contact and lure children, exchanging tips on seduction techniques and, even more critically, ways and means of avoiding detection.

According to last Sunday's New Jersey's Star Ledger, the State's Senate is currently pondering a Bill that would debar known sexual predators from ever using the Internet (for any purpose) after first conviction. There are those who find the punishment harsh but, for the most part, public response is: "Better safe than sorry." After all, it is by far the most common means by which predators lure victims.

Children are prone to temper tantrums and mood-swings induced by nothing more than jealousy over any situation that appears to divert parental attention away from them and predators feed on that weakness, offering friendship to ameliorate the feeling of being "unwanted", playing on the kid's emotions, gaining trust, reinforcing it and then pouncing to collect on time invested.

The child sees only a new and understanding friend and the predator is willing to sustain the internet chat for as long as it takes to deliver the victim, beginning with a single short exchange per day, building as it goes, sneaking in brief sexual innuendo to test reception. Working parents (or worse, single mothers) who think the kid is upstairs, productively occupied on the computer, perhaps checking homework, should take some time to investigate exactly what transpires on the screen.

Children who insist on closing the study door while online, or suddenly shut down the system when parents are approaching the room, were quite likely doing something inappropriate and should be made to repeat at least their last transaction. In fact, parents should retain proprietary rights over the computer, reminding the child - where necessary-who owns the system (and therefore regulates its usage).

Really, one basic rule would go a long way toward diminishing the possibility of your child becoming the next victim of a sexual predator. The child must never release personal information or agree to meet a correspondent and if the computer is fitted with a camera, under no circumstance should images be transmitted.

The computer is unparalleled as an information source and a necessity for inquisitive minds seeking cutting-edge knowledge and analysis but the same machine is fast becoming the quintessential conduit for the depraved who can, in nano-seconds, lure your kid into inappropriate situations.

The parent should be the real firewall against such possibilities but unfortunately, far too adults actually boast about how clever their kids are at manipulating the technology, meanwhile admitting: "Me? I don't know a damn thing about computers."

Instead of waiting for reports from each next case of sexual abuse of minors, the Ministry of Social Development should consider focusing on educating parents about dangers lurking behind the computer screen.

Your next problem could be just a click away.

Back to Part I

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