I THINK I KNOW WHO I’M TYPING TO
Submitted by: Maria Pilar Galvez
Submitted to: Elizabeth Littlejohn
Date: 15 November 2007
People come in different sizes, colours, and personalities – everyone is different and has their own lifestyle. These lifestyles, induced by behaviours and attitudes, can be placed within categories of negative, positive, normal, and bizarre. An example of a bizarre lifestyle can be one of a pedophile; these people can be found anywhere in the world, in little to many numbers. Also known as sexual predators, they “display a sexual desire directed toward children” (“Pedophile”). Knowing that there are people with these uniformly secret identities walking around in neighbourhoods, it becomes a scary place for children. However, with the rise of the World Wide Web, it has become harder to identify pedophiles who seek children with the anonymity of cyber-identity. Although the Internet has become a grand space to interact and communicate with others, anonymity in cyber-identity, in relation to sexual predators, can lead to dangerous consequences.
The World Wide Web holds many advantages for sexual predators on the Internet. It is implicit that “offline, pedophiles typically operate in isolation” (“Sexual Predators Online”). This holds true as identities, in person, are revealed at once. Due to the fact though at large, pedophiles are not always recognizable, and a sexual predator can be lurking in anyone. People have their social identities to interact with others, and are brought about and stabilized by the opinions of others. Personal identities are kept private, which is best for those such as sexual predators, who are inclined to keep negative societal behaviours undisclosed. However, with the use of the Internet, sexual predators are able to communicate with others of the like, while keeping their offline identities hidden from the public. Although pedophiliac behaviours are regarded unethical in society, the opportunity for sexual predators to freely communicate with one another can be recognizably consequential as “conquests” (“Sexual Predators Online”) can be sent to one another, as well as tactics and advice, and an overall “validation, or virtual validation for their behaviour” (“Sexual Predators Online”) is illuminated in this group setting.
Though the Internet allows sexual predators to revise their methods, it also allows children to be susceptible to their ploys. When it comes to the Internet, like everyone else, children have the ability to be anonymous, and then create a cyber-identity over time, with similarities near or far to their own offline identities. Children and adolescents have the facility to start fresh and walk away from their current lives at the click of a mouse. On the Web, they are able to construct identities that they would like to be able to relate to, away from their troubles in their offline world. Also, “children, especially adolescents, are sometimes interested in and curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material” and it is through the Web that children are able to grasp at the knowledge that underlies their curiosities. Everything thus far leads to having these needs and characteristics exploited by sexual predators.
Through the use of chat rooms, instant messaging, and public internet spaces, children are able to interact with others who can seemingly relate to them as well. In many cases, they do not know with whom they are conversing, but feel a trusting relationship gradually growing. Pseudonyms for screen names, as well as a false age and a false history, are used by sexual predators to attract the minors that they communicate with. It is “through the use of attention, affection, kindness” that sexual predators are able to lure children into meeting them. Although the child and the sexual predator do not know each other, it is through time and empathy that trust is gained. In other situations, the curiosity of and the feel of invincibility that the Internet creates for a child allows a sexual predator to accomplish their task more easily. On sites like MySpace ( HYPERLINK "http://www.MySpace.com" www.MySpace.com), many adolescents can be seen as less than conservative, and portray themselves as people who they believe are more mature, by baring their skin in photos and elucidating innuendos in text and images. This creates an ulterior motive for pedophiles to believe that they can and will meet these children and have sex with them, because these adolescents flaunt themselves for those reasons.
In the 2003 case of Christina Long, the danger of sexual predators on the Internet was publicized. Long, 13, was an honor student and a cheerleader in her offline reality, but took advantage of the Internet. Her aunt felt that Long was safer at home away from trouble, but the danger of the Web and the actions made by Christina were undeniably fatal – “she used provocative screen names and routinely had sex with partners she met in chat rooms” (“The Two-Faces of a 13-Year Old Girl”). It was her encounter with Saul Dos Reis that ended her life when he strangled her during intercourse. This case illuminated the dangerous situations that are involved with children and the Internet, and put to light preventions and precautions that should be made by both children and their parents in dealing with online communication.
Dangerous consequences are encountered when it comes to anonymity of cyber-identities and the Internet. The case in point is relations between sexual predators and the innocence of children that are exploited. Children are “seduced and manipulated by a clever offender and do not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of these contacts” (“A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety”). In 2001, “89% of sexual solicitations were made in either chat rooms or instant messages” (“Sexual Predators Online”) and “1 in 5 youth (ages 10-17 years) has been sexually solicited online” (“Sexual Predators Online”. Although sexual predators have many advantages in cultivating their pedophilia through communicating ideas, tactics, advice, and “avoiding law enforcement detection”, they can also be prevented. Whether or not a child wishes it, a parent can become involved in Internet use and watch that their child does not condemn themselves into the hands of a pedophile. Law enforcement and organizations such as Perverted Justice ( HYPERLINK "http://www.pervertedjustice.com" www.pervertedjustice.com), who “covertly exposes sexual predators”, are currently doing their best to rid the Internet of pedophiles who continually exploit children. The Internet is to be taken with a grain of salt, but precautions must be taken when anonymity controls the judgments based on cyber-identities.
“A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety.” U.S. Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Investigations: Publications. November 2007
Aftab, Parry. “Ask Parry!.” Wiredsafety.org. November 2007
Berglund, Mikael & Palme, Jacob. “Anonymity on the Internet.” (30 July 2002). November 2007.
Complete Wordfinder. “Pedophile.” The Reader’s Digest Oxford Complete Wordfinder. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1996.
“Cyber Sting Nets Sexual Predators.” CBS News. (4 March 2004). November 2007
“Cyberdating.” Wiredsafety.org. November 2007
Gudykunst, W. & Kim, Y., “Chapter 2: An Approach to the Study of Intercultural Communication” from Communicating with Strangers, Pp. 27-29, © McGraw Hill, 2002
Hansen, Chris. “’To Catch a Predator’ III.” NBC News. (4 February 2006). November 2007
Kenyon, TK. “Internet Sexual Predators: The New War is Words.” Suite101.com. (15 February 2007). November 2007
Perverted Justice. Perverted Justice Foundation. November 2007
Ramsland, Katherine. “Internet Predators and Their Prey.” Crime Library. November 2007
Robinson, Amelia. “Sexual predators troll Internet to snare innocents; Offender lured girl, 15, into sex with promises.” Dayton Daily News. (11 March 2007).
“Secret Lives: The Perils of Cyberspace.” CBS Worldwide Inc.. (25 June 2003). November 2007
“Sexual Predators Online.” ProtectKids.com: Protecting Children in Cyberspace. November 2007.
“The Two Faces of a 13-Year Old Girl.” CBS Worldwide Inc.. (21 May 2002). November 2007