Most Parents Think They Know
What Their Kids Do Online.
Sexual predation online began in earnest sometime after the Internet revolution commenced in 1995.
Predation has seen abnormally high rate of growth in recent years primarily because of anonymity afforded by the Internet,
because there are an estimated 10 times more children online now than in 1995,
and because software for hunting children online is easy to use and freely available.
MySpace.com is a prototypical social networking site facilitating a hunt for "new friends"
in a user-specified age group and within a specified radius of any town in the US.)
The greatest threat to our nation's children comes not from
recidivism by convicted predators.
It can be argued that recidivism
is low among those convicted predators having actually served jail time.)
The greatest threat instead comes from unknown sexual predators; i.e.
, new predators having no prior criminal record.
The Internet has turned otherwise average-looking citizens into predators by virtue of anonymity,
and by the fact that an estimated 30 million children are now online.
Media focus on this topic is white-hot.
Excellent video reports are provided (above right) from distinct perspectives:
Predator point of view:
These NBC reports teach that predation is rampant and growing at an alarming rate.
As many as
1 in 5 children
(p.4) are sexually victimized,
according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in Alexandria, Virginia.
Predators span all age groups and social strata, but are predominantly male.
Convicted pedophiles include medical doctors, fire fighters, rabbis, college students,
school teachers, criminal investigators, government officials (FEMA), etc.;
literally, all professions, IQ, and walk of life.
Teens report that they take precautions
and deny giving personal information to strangers.
But the MySpace.com movie (above right) teaches that teens themselves divulge more personal information
to strangers than could be acquired by a professional private investigator.
So admittedly overwhelmed and ill-equipped to handle this pandemic that,
counter to their long-standing tradition barring collaboration with civilians,
sheriffs across the country have deputized the vigilantes known as
Perverted-Justice.com to assist with enforcement of solicitation-of-minor laws.
Sexual predators are nearly all male
There are almost no female predators of children because human females, generally, know their prey beforehand.
Unlike men who will hunt and explore the unknown, women instead lure their victims.
Popular hunting magazines in the US declare that only about 25% of registered hunters are female.
Dateline NBC and law enforcement teach that there exists, seemingly, a limitless supply of new
online predators spanning every socioeconomic class.
Anyone can enter one of the many free anonymous chatrooms, pretend to be a thirteen year-old girl,
and then be solicited for sex within minutes of arrival.
This effective demonstration is repeated throughout the country by law enforcement officers
to educate parents; e.g., www.internetchildsafety.net
At greatest risk are children who use the Internet for social networking:
chatrooms, email, voice over Internet protocol (VOIP, computer as telephone), and instant messaging (IM);
i.e., children who use the computer as a communication device.
The single most dangerous behavior, by a child, is physically meeting a stranger that was first met online.
Statistics say: chances that an adolescent will physically meet an online stranger can be as high as
1 in 4
and almost never falls below 1 in 8
for teens over 13 years of age.
(Emerging Risks of Violence
That is the principal statistic relevant to WatchMyKidsPC because a
parent need only ask: Do I want to take a 1 in 4 chance that my kid will
leave the house to meet a stranger without my knowledge.
The actual rate of molestation is, therefore, irrelevant
although iSafe.org reports kids are being abducted and killed by online sexual predators.
This phenomenal problem, sexual predation online,
exists because of complementary deficiencies:
social naiveté of the child
computer illiteracy of parents.
Traditional methods for protecting children fail regularly.
The most prevalent mode of thought
is to educate both parent and child about dangers of the Internet.
This educational approach presumes a child capable of making
rational decisions while simultaneously ignoring their physical impulses and urges.
But flawed is the presumption that a child is guided
more by intellect than by their emotional needs.
It is a well-known neurological fact that a child's brain development is
incomplete until their early twenties.
Until then, the emotional center of the brain dominates a child's decision-making process.
In 2006, there was no completely effective prophylactic measure for protecting children from sexual predators online;
technological or otherwise. The most popular snare advocated is legalized entrapment,
where law officers pose as children in chatrooms; luring predators. By officers' own estimates,
chances of a particular predator getting caught
for solicitation of a minor in a chatroom are "fairly slim" (see Predator movie above or www.internetchildsafety.net).
Even so, this entrapment technique is becoming widespread simply because of predator abundance in cyberspace.
I think parents have known that this has been around, it's just, their attitude is: "It doesn't happen in my house,
it's not going to happen to my son or daughter" says Teri Schroeder of iSafe.
It is dangerous for parents to become even more complacent than they are now;
presuming the online predator problem to be solved by police, or that their child is not at risk.
Any child who spends unsupervised hours per day on a connected computer is certainly at risk;
especially if the child is home alone, or if their computer is a laptop or located in their bedroom.
Surveillance software for parents, such as NetNanny or America Online (AOL)
(software purchased by parents
for the express purpose of spying on their children),
is readily available on the Worldwide Web for
immediate installation on their child's computer.
This spyware can record things such as keystrokes, some chat logs, email, screen shots,
and history of websites viewed. That data is then retrievable locally or remotely for scrutiny by a parent.
Spyware can also be configured to selectively block "offensive" content from a child.
(Literally, the billions of existing websites are somehow categorized in advance;
these black and white lists then become integrated with the surveillance software.)
Foremost deficiencies of surveillance spyware are:
- Use of spyware implicitly presupposes that parents are vigilant and know how to:
- operate a computer
- install software
- use the spyware they installed
- prevent their child from disabling it.
This assumption is flawed in so far as the child's knowledge of computers is typically superior to that of the parents;
some parents know nothing at all about computers
and little of the Internet.
Spyware tends to be categorized by the computer industry as such
(a negative connotation; e.g.
, Pearl Software
and the eminent antivirus and antispyware programs (e.g.
, Symantec corp., McAfee corp., Iolo corp.)
might automatically remove or disable spyware.
Otherwise, a child is alerted to existence of spyware by freely available
, Spybot.com, Grisoft.com) and encouraged to remove, destroy, or disable it.
Spyware requires a parent to be diligent and do work
by examining records and reports of their child's activities.
It further requires that parents understand what the spyware tells them about their child's activities.
Parents' Obstacles to Protecting their Children
The foremost obstacle to use of surveillance spyware is the child's own
superior computer ability over that of the parents.
It is far more common for the modern-day parent to ask a child for help with the computer than vice versa,
because the child's curriculum typically includes computer training.
The computer-savvy child is able to detect existence of surveillance software; ways for the child to defeat,
uninstall, or disable it can be found via Google.
A clever child knows how to fool the parents.
The Justin Berry case recently featured on
is a prominent example of surveillance software failure:
Justin's mother is a social worker who specializes in molested children.
The mother installed surveillance software on her son's computer.
The 13 year-old son, Justin, was able to defeat the surveillance and
run a child pornography site selling himself right under the mother's nose.
Websites blocked from a child's view can be visited via proxy server
whose existence on the Worldwide Web serves that exact purpose.
It is possible for a particular proxy server to be neither blacklisted or whitelisted; i.e., unknown.
Surveillance software is therefore nothing more than a placebo
for the parent, in our opinion.
By contrast, WatchMyKidsPC
sees whatever the kid sees. (It's like looking over their shoulder.)
If a kid tries to disable WatchMyKidsPC
for an uncharacteristic duration,
a parent is notified that the kid's computer is not visible to us when it was expected to be.
The surveillance-software approach is antithetical to WatchMyKidsPC
it defeats the purpose of hiring a nanny; i.e.
, the female nanny does the work
for parents, and does a better job than the parents ever could.
Surveillance software instead places that burden on the parents who were looking
for outside help in the first place. So the surveillance-software approach costs
parents time they may not have, and requires skills they may lack.