The arrest last night of a Department of Homeland Security official on child predation charges has thrust the issue of Internet pornography/predators to the top of the news today.
Brian Doyle was the deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, a position that puts him on the front lines of helping to protect this nation. If what Polk County, Florida, police allege is true, it would not only be a grievous crime, but an abrogation of trust with the American people. We're going to take a long look at the issue of Internet predators tonight, how prevalent they are, the support systems the Internet offers them, and how the web has truly become an information superhighway for deviant behavior.
You might be frightened to know that as many as 1 in 4 children who go into Internet chat rooms have been contacted or propositioned by a pedophile. As the father of a 14 year old girl, I find that statistic incredibly troubling. What's more, the Internet not only offers perverts a quick and clear line to potential victims, it also offers a network for these deviants to plot and plan the best way to approach young people and how to manipulate them. It even brings pedophiles together in a common community where they assure each other what they're doing is not morally or criminally wrong.
The Internet can be a wonderful tool, but it is also home to a lot of dark places where predators aggressively pursue innocent victims. The exploitation of children over the Internet is already a $20 billion dollar a year business, and business is exploding. A recent survey conducted for the Polly Klaas Foundation found 25 percent of teens say they have talked online about sex with someone they never met in person. Nearly 1 in 5 reported knowing a friend who has been harassed or asked about sex online by a stranger.
Law enforcement does what it can to combat this nightmare of pedophilia. Brian Doyle was caught by a small sheriff's department in Florida that has decided Internet predation is an important enough issue to warrant a computer crimes unit. But for every deviant brought before the bar of justice, hundreds more continue to troll unencumbered for new victims.
Parents play a big role here too. You HAVE to be aware of what your child is doing online. Look at the case of Justin Berry, who testified before Congress yesterday. He ran an internet porn business from his bedroom for years. Where was his mother in all this? She claims to have had no idea what he was up to. Come on parents! What does it take to police your child's online experience? I'm not trying to play holier-than-thou here, but parents MUST take responsibility for their children's environment. It's a dangerous world out there in cyberspace -- and the problem of internet predation should spark us all to outrage.
We're covering all the angles on this important story tonight, and I'll see you for "360°."Editor's note: John Roberts and Heidi Collins co-achor "360°" tonight.