Just yesterday, I happened to read about a unique on line project that was staged by a Dutch based children’s charity. They posted a computer generated image of a cute ten year old Filipino girl on line ; according to the researchers associated with the project, the web literally exploded with over 20, 000 requests from predators who wanted her to cater to their sick fantasies – and they were more than willing to pay. Not just the researchers but each one of us who is a parent has reason to be shocked by this bit of information. Not because of the sheer number of the vile individuals out there stalking the web but because not everyone who solicited sexual favours from the computer generated image aptly named Sweetie, was the typical cloak and dagger secretive type you would expect a child abuse psycho to be. Most were from the otherwise normal, standard ranks of people who have families, regular jobs and lead supposedly normal lives.
It seems the anonymity of sitting behind a computer screen brought their inner beast out. Their secret personality, dark and dangerous but well concealed behind a facade of normalcy, could be as dangerous as the ones choosing to harm an innocent child physically. On line child abuse one of the hardest tasks the world’s law enforcement agencies have had to deal with.
My concern, as a parent of a bubbly soon-to-be seven year old girl, is if we as parents are doing enough to ensure our children are safe. What mechanisms do we have in place to make sure the internet coming into our home is safe enough for our children to surf. What of the occasional intruder, the stalker who may be from you own locality or an unsuspected friend from a social network? What of the cyber sexual predator who can offer tempting monetary offers to poorer kids and their families in hundreds of developing countries around the world – how ready are we to deal with these horrifying issues?
Playing the vigilante role for a parent never ends , more so on the web. Fighting the ugly, dark and dangerous under belly of the internet that is one stinking mess of pornography and sexual perversion is undoubtedly tough. There are groups of parents who have taken on the job of policing and branding the perverts – with mixed results. When typical police actions delay, it is natural that parents want to take up the task of luring and finding the culprits who stalk young children.
What we need to remember is that taking care of children goes beyond just taking care of their needs – as a mother, I have always believed that you need to go beyond the ordinary everyday chores motherhood and raising kids involve. Become a vigilant – you need to be able to watch out for signs and be alert. Are there changes in behaviour patterns – is a child different than he or she used to be? How are his/her internet habits, have they changed or not. Keeping watch starts right in our homes, where we can and must be vigilant against cyber sex predators who often find ways of getting through despite filters.
A parent recently mentioned that in their house, the computers are placed in a public space, facing everyone. It seems to be a good idea, rather than having the kids on computers on their own, in the privacy of their rooms. It is ironic that we watch out for intruders who may enter our homes or our lives in person but neglect to watch out for the predators who enter our homes and the lives of our children on line.
What about children from unfortunate circumstances, who may be easily stalked on line – are there ways for vigilante groups to monitor such instances where children maybe lured with money to offer sexual favours. Just as law enforcement agencies deal with sexual offenses in person, the policing of the internet and its shameful display of perverted pleasures must also be dealt with.
On the whole, children need more supervision when on-line. That is the bottom line.