Wednesday, April 05, 2006
Sexual predators find support systems online
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.
Posted By John Roberts, CNN Senior Correspondent: 6:03 PM ET
My daughter is not yet old enough to use the internet by herself (she's eight) but once she does have the interest in it the computer will be moved to the main area of the home and she can only us it when we are present. This is the only way I can assure the she is safe from these preverts. Parents need to let their kids know they are involved. The more you are involved the less trouble your kid will get in to. I am still a "new" mom and I may be very nieve by saying this. Who knows, live and learn right?
Posted By Anonymous Rachel-Albuquerque, NM : 6:31 PM ET
THis is a horrible situation. The disgusting pigs are all over the internet preying on our children. There are only 2 ways to stop it. 1) Parents, watch EVERYTHING your children do on the computer!!!! Put it in the family room, so you and your spouse can see what they are doing at all times!! 2) Hang these perverts in the city hall!!!! If we started doing this, crime wouldn't totally disappear, but it would probably make some pigs think twice before they commit a crime against a child or another adult.
Posted By Anonymous Jamie, O.B. MS : 6:36 PM ET
When I confronted someone who I knew had child porn on his computer, I was hit with a barrage of insults about how normal his behavior was, and how older women conspire to ruin the normal appetites of men (the girl was 14).... lo and behold, he had many newsgroups and "friends" on the internet who agreed with him and fed his sickness. This problem is increasing because it has been allowed to, it's big business.
Posted By Anonymous Susanne Trimmer, Pasadena, MD : 6:57 PM ET
So quick to blame the children. A child under 18 should not have a computer in their room. It should be in the common family area. Watch your kids!!!
Posted By Anonymous Sarah Shaw, Charlotte, NC : 6:58 PM ET
I have two points and both are related to what I would consider both pros and cons of anonymity on the internet.

Would someone like Brian Doyle have taken the chances he had taken without the relative anonymity under which you can be on the internet? Is this anonymity actually making people with pedophiliac tendencies lose control?

Secondly, it is nice to see that the false sense of anonymity that these sick people have about using the internet is actually helping us to see them in their true colors.
Posted By Anonymous Augie, Boston MA : 7:01 PM ET
I don't think it's as huge an issue as people are making it out to be. 'Asked about sex online by a stranger' - if 'stranger' is defined as someone you don't talk to in person, what active internet user hasn't? On AIM, IRC, you talk about life. Sex is part of life. If you're not mature enough to handle that, you shouldn't even leave the house.

Someone tells a sex joke or starts talking about their latest hookup, and parents go insane, 'Oh no! The internet wants to touch my kid in his no-no place!' It's ridiculous. Just because you're under eighteen doesn't mean you're a sucker for every roving pedophile online. I'm sixteen and female; I think I should have a pretty good idea.
Posted By Anonymous Jeni, Tempe, Arizona : 7:09 PM ET
Is it possible that legislators and crime enforcement agencies talk to the computer industry experts, and network experts to come up with a "firewall" or any other software to protect our kids from these unwanted type of activities on the Internet.

I am agreeing with keeping in touch with your kids, but, just as when the kids were babies you can't watch them 100% and let's not forget the rebelious time teenagers go through. I am not trying to find excuses for parents and kids but a lot of times is hard to think from the other side as long as you are a kid wihout life's experience and tend to think from the innocent side. Let's also don't forget that parents have a lot of burdens and responsibilties required of them these days. One situation that comes to me with one parent traveling on business and the other parent shuffling things the time watching the kids becomes precious time. And then what about single parents that have to work full-time? What are they to do? Should we tell them that that puts their kids more at risk?

I'd be willing to pay for a sotware that would increase safety and keep my kids out harm's way. Or/and raise awareness in schools.
Posted By Anonymous Alina, Lafayette, CA : 7:14 PM ET
We've moved from a society where the TV babysat our children to computers becoming their "parent". I am not yet a mother but I do know that my future child(ren) will not spend his days in front of a TV or computer screen. Our children are losing the experience of being outside and playing by themselves or with other peers and even with their own family. The computer should primarily be used as a tool for research on school projects. IM's should be limited to school mates and for a very short amount of time each day. Parents must do their part to interact with their children daily. Sex should be discussed openly so that they are aware of what it is and not be lead down the wrong path by a pedophile who will explain sex to them their way. The more informed a child is, the better chances they have of ending inappropriate chat when they encounter it and they would be less curious about sex which can lead them down Justin Berry's road.
Posted By Anonymous M. Wong, Van Nuys, CA : 7:22 PM ET
I think that parents not only need to be aware of what can happen to children online, but to also acknowledge that it can happen to THEIR OWN CHILDREN. Parents don't want to accept that someone out there (be they a stranger or known to the family) wants to harm their kids. Some parents talk to their children about it and trust that their children understand about predators and won't fall victim to them. Pedophiles know how to be seductive and can draw your children into an inappropriate conversation before they even know it. Make sure that you monitor your children closely and that they can feel free to come to you without shame or embarassment and tell you about any inappropriate contact with predators online.
Posted By Anonymous Susie, Toronto, Ontario : 7:26 PM ET
Even if you diligently watch your children online, you can't always see and know what they're up to short of watching over their shoulder 24/7 which is not possible. I'm not saying some policing isn't in order but come on -- it's just not possible to watch everything. Some of these children bear some responsiblity.. shouldn't they be held accountable too?
Posted By Anonymous Steve Ryan, Medford, OR : 7:28 PM ET
I'm a high school teacher in upstate New York. I teach 9th and 10th graders. These kids love the internet. Given half a chance, they're online--chatting, looking up images of celebrities, and generally indulging their curiosity.

Given some of the things I have seen my students looking at online, I wonder: do we, as adults, have a responsibility to place limits on how far the indulgence of curiosity goes? Should we (can we) protect the innocence of kids by telling them they're not yet old enough to know all the answers to their questions?

I'll give you one example of something that really bothered me. One day, I asked a group of 9th graders to make a list of "10 things to do during a blackout" as a free-write (an activity to get your imagination going prior to a more lengthy writing assignment). I walked past the desk of a 14-year-old girl. The #1 item on her list was "screw." Two days later, I saw the same girl looking up nude, sexually explicit images of men and women online. The school has a responsibility to keep kids from accessing that sort of thing, and we do our best to live up to that responsibility. But I know this girl has internet access at home, too. I have to wonder--outside of school, who is protecting this girl's innocence? Who is telling her it's all right to be sexually ignorant for a little while longer?
Posted By Anonymous Eve, Catskills, NY : 7:29 PM ET
Our family has multiple laptops, but the only one our children are allowed to use remains in our kitchen where we know what they are doing at all times. Is it a popular decision for the kids? No, but I consider it a "safety" rule, and in our house safety rules are non-negotiable. We watched the Dateline specials on internet predators, and what an eye opener that was. I'm not opposed to our kids having privacy, but until we have a better system in place to keep kids safe, computers are not allowed in their bedrooms. Parents have got to be very aware of what goes on in their own homes right under their noses. Kids might not like it now, but when they grow up and have children of their own hopefully then they'll understand.
Posted By Anonymous Julia, Stratham NH : 7:34 PM ET
I had a friend who thought it was funny to send my e-mail address to a porn site. Needless to say, I started getting disgusting e-mails; that was 6 years ago, and I still get them and I'm a 57 year old woman! I can't get rid of them, despite the blocks and filters I've put in place. Online sexual predators are virulent scum who will assault anyone, anywhere any time!
Posted By Anonymous Chris Willsie, Egg Harbor Twp. NJ : 7:35 PM ET
You are absolutely correct in saying parents need to take part in their childs upbringing. Parents who allow their children to "chat" unsupervised need to take a course in management by objectives. I do not care how old your child appears to be, he or she is still under the supervision of the parent and the parent is the responsible party until the child reaches the "golden" age. It is my right as a parent to search the computer, the bed, the drawers, and so forth, for any illegal conduct or materials. I signed up for this "right" when I chose to bring a child into this world. Solicitation of a minor has to stop...and that starts with the responsible parent.
Posted By Anonymous FB, Del Rio, Texas : 7:38 PM ET
This whole issue of child porn and chat rooms, etc is an example of the decline of decency in America.

If people think that God does not react to increasingly bad treatment of poor or relatively helpless individuals through different means, think again.
Posted By Anonymous David, NYC : 7:47 PM ET
It's refreshing to see someone addressing not only the issue of dangerous sexual perversion on the internet, but also the insular communities which encourage and enable these people. One look at the NAMBLA (National Man-Boy Love Association) forums and one can see the degree to which these isolated communities allow these criminally perverse people to justify their harmful behavior.

Though I also think it's important not to take this too far. Pedophiles should be punished to the full extent of the law, but we shouldn't start ostracizing people for other legal, albeit bizarre, sexual tastes.
Posted By Anonymous Brian White, Chicago IL : 7:52 PM ET
Citation for your stats, Roberts? Not that this is not an important issue, but the presentation of numbers sounds rather alarmist. I remember goofing around with female teenage friends in adult themed chatrooms. Teenagers are curious (and have S-E-X, why not post those stats?) and it should be no suprise that they get into questionable materials online.

Second, monitoring of teenage (especially older teens) computer habits is questionable as well as impossible to implement. I guarantee the typical 14 year old boy knows vastly more about computer software than his parents, and have a lot more free time to get around any parental censorship. In particular, any teenager saavy enough to run and maintain an online business would essentially be impossible to censor by a typical parent. Your cry for parental involvement is therefore without merit unless you provide a feasible and reasonable method by which parents can become involved. (And don't talk about the typical censorship software -- it might work on 8 year olds, not teenagers.)
Posted By Anonymous John Morrow, Madison, WI : 7:52 PM ET
I'm the mother of a 10 year old and there's nothing she does on the Internet that her father and I don't know about. But the larger point is that it paints a picture that it's not just some low-class scumball on a computer with dialup, it's someone who seemingly has it all going for him - a good job, a family - something so picture perfect and he's still an [alleged] pedophile.

If nothing else, I hope that it brings this subject out into the open, that parents learn how to monitor their kids instead of letting technology do it for them, and that the suspects can be from any segment of society.
Posted By Anonymous Angela, Tampa FL : 7:57 PM ET
It is incredible that our government hasn't taken this serious! So many children's lives are being ruined and our congress or the senate seem to be immune to this growing catastrophy. these men or women need to be locked-up. Law enforcement needs to be actively involved in catching these criminals! - And parents, know who your children are talking to. Check their computers. Install a stealth program that allows you to check who they have talked to and check it on a regular basis.
Posted By Anonymous Petra LaForest, Laurel, MD : 8:16 PM ET
When I got a computer for the family, I intentionally blocked or deleted any chat programs. I feel they are pretty much useless and just another way for perverts to try to get at your kids. Another protective measure I took was to put the computer in an open area. I can always observe what my daughter is doing on line.My daughter is 5yrs old a regularly goes online to play video games. She knows which web sites in the "favorites" menu are hers. She has no clue what a chat room is. When she asks me about them, I'll tell her what they are and why they are pretty much a waste of time. Until then, she can play her games and be happy and safe.
Posted By Anonymous Mark, Lakeland, FL : 8:25 PM ET
As the mother of five teens, two boys and three girls, we parents can solve this the old-fashioned way. Fellow parents, lock and load!

But honestly, is anything other than the promise of public exposure and humiliation going to stop most of these perverts?

To the comment of older women conspiring to ruin the normal appetites of men - are not the majority of lawmakers men?
Posted By Anonymous Deanna Reynolds, Atlanta, GA : 8:37 PM ET
Okay, maybe I'll be on the unpopular side here, but the issue is not just with the children accessing the internet, with perverts being on the internet, or with the internet at all. The problem lies with parents. I can tell you, for a fact, that this type of activity has been going on for years. When I was a young, tech savvy guy that had a 2400 baud modem hooked up to his 386--- guess what? No matter what BBS system I dialed into (this was before the internet conveniently hosted multiple websites - you actually had to dial in to sites) I was bombarded with requests, suggestions, and worse. But the thing is - they really didn't effect me. I simply closed them, reported the violation, and went on my merry way. And I think that any kid can do that. I was 12. The reason that I did that is because my parents told me what to do in that sort of a situation. School showed me bad videos with Ricky Schroeder telling me that if someone initiated a sexual conversation, that I should end it, and tell someone. What happened? Parents worked harder, spent less time with their kids, and let others raise them. And we wonder why there is this epidemic now? Maybe if there weren't so many latch key kids with no guidance, there wouldn't be as much prey for sexual predators.

Lastly - you can watch your kids, you can monitor the computer, hell - you can even install software that automates it. But guess what? That won't stop the perv in the van, the guy at the local store, or the guidance counselor that cops a feel. The only thing that will put an end to this type of abuse is empowering our children to recognize it for what it is, identify it as such, and feel comfortable enough to tell us. Otherwise, the debate will rage on - but the acts will still occur.
Posted By Anonymous Jonathan M., Los Angeles, CA : 8:38 PM ET
You're right; there is absolutely *no* excuse for parents being unaware of what their kids are up to online. If nothing else there are literally dozens of inexpensive and sometimes even FREE programs that will track keystrokes on your kids computer or log their chat conversations and save them for your review. It takes 10 minutes to install such a program and just minutes per night to peruse the kids logs to see just what is going on. The chat program "Trillian" is accessible to just about every major chat engine (yahoo, msn, aol) and automatically saves all conversations so that you can read them at your leisure. And anyone who thinks that this would be an invasion of their kids privacy needs to seriously rethink their priorities. How far would they go to keep their kids off of drugs? Would they invade their children's privacy to keep them from being kidnapped or molested? We're already watching our 10 year old and have no qualms about his "privacy". As far as we are concerned he doesn't have any privacy when he's online. Seems like a small price to pay to keep your kids safe, doesn't it?
Posted By Anonymous Angie Shiraishi, Stafford, VA : 8:41 PM ET is my understanding the boy didn't live with his mother. As soon as she figured it out he got help. Give her a little credit. The father should burn for encouraging it. The web is both one of the greatest things created and one of the most evil.
Posted By Anonymous Danyelle Leigh,Palm Beach, Fla : 8:44 PM ET
This has been going on for a long time. My daughters are now in their Thirties but back when they were early teens they had the own phone line. They started getting calls from a pervert. I told them to not respond but just hang up. When it didn't stop I contacted the police. I was told that I waited too long. It would be assumed that it wasn't a problem because I hadn't acted immediately.
Posted By Anonymous Jim McCreary, Houston, Texas : 8:59 PM ET
All over the United States, judges have been allowing convicted child rapists back into communities with children, sentencing them to NO JAIL TIME. A scandal of this magnitude is a complete outrage, especially in light of the fact that the United States incarcerates a higher percentage of its population than any other nation on earth, largely due to the drug war. We need to hold these public officials accountable for the predators they release into our communities.
Posted By Anonymous Christopher Largen, Denton, TX : 9:00 PM ET
First off kids need to be monitored. I have two 15 year old girls at home, daughter and step-daughter. And they each have a computer to use. I've installed a program on each, parental control. Not only does it tell me what sites they've viewed, but also shows what was typed, to whom and when. And it shows snapshots of the screens the've been in. And they know it. You can also limit what sites they can go to. Some people will do whatever they can to get to our kids, it is up to us (parents) to keep them safe. They may not like the limitations, but I sleep better at night because of them.
Posted By Anonymous Dan Osborn, Madison, WI : 9:06 PM ET
I have two quick comments on this issue.
First, where are the parents. I doubt any parent would let their child/teen browse in the pornography section of a newstand or bookstore or so why do they let them do this at home.

Secondly, as vile, abhorant, and criminal the behavior of these men is it is technically not pedophilia. The media loves to use this term because it is so provocative. The term "pedophilia" is a psychiatric diagnosis which is exclusively about pre-pubescent children.
DO NOT get me wrong. I am very opposed to what these men do and feel strongly that each of these men ought to be held responsible so they don't do it again.
Posted By Anonymous Paul Douhan, Mount Vernon, WA : 9:50 PM ET
American news always fascinates me. How this manilative kid Justin Berry can be a poster child for chilp porn abuse is beyond me. This kid knew what he was doing and knew it was wrong. Listen you are not going to stop all the sickos out there who want to get there claws into your children(Look at the example of Brian Doyle, DHS). What you have to do is go back to basics and teach your child what is right and what is wrong. I have a 1 years old dog and she certanily knows what is right and what is wrong. Sure computers out of the bedroom is a bandage, but talk to your kids honestly and stop being so prudish about sexual matters. The kids now are very sophisticated in their knowledge about this!
And a few other points the use of the sensational word "Pedohillia" on national television does not describe the majority of these cases. I agree with Paul Douhan about this. This is a Psychiatric disorder of a sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. In the vast majority of these incidents the kids are not children preteens but actually teenagers. I am not condoning this in any way but there should be some clarity and honesty brought to this discussion. And I am not sure how exactly to deal with this exploding problem but the entrapment by police officers pretending to be 14 year old girls and offering themself online is not the way to go about it.
Posted By Anonymous Shane, Osaka Japan : 10:53 PM ET
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