FBI to parents: Internet pedophiles a serious threat
CyberTipline launched to protect kids
March 11, 1998
Web posted at: 12:09 p.m. EST (1709 GMT)
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Teen-age girls are the most vulnerable
victims of pedophiles on the Internet, and parents are too
complacent about cyber-pedophile threats to their children,
FBI officials warn.
FBI Director Louis Freeh told a Senate panel Tuesday that
that child sex predators are far more pervasive on the
Internet than most parents suspect, and law enforcement
officials need to become more sophisticated to combat them.
Freeh said the FBI has investigated at least 70 cases in
which an adult builds up trust with a young person through
contacts on the Internet and convinces the minor to meet
somewhere for illicit sexual purposes.
In one example of the risks, FBI agent Linda Hooper said
that when an agent pretending to be a teen-age girl signed on
to a "chat room" limited to 23 children, all 22 other
"youths" turned out to be adults seeking improper contact
"You used to be able to tell your kid, don't talk to
strangers, don't take money from strangers," said Sen. Judd
Gregg, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on
Commerce, Justice, State and the Judiciary.
"But now the stranger isn't outside the house. The stranger
can be inside, on the Internet," the New Hampshire Republican
Congress last year gave the FBI $10 million to set up the
"Innocent Images" program to combat child predators and child
pornographers on the Internet. A program headquarters has
been set up in Baltimore, and law enforcement agents are now
trying to train more people in federal and local agencies.
This week, the National Center for Missing and Exploited
Children (NCMEC) opened the CyberTipline on the Internet,
(http://www.missingkids.com/cybertip/) where people can
report leads about possible cyber-exploitation. The program
is run with the cooperation of the FBI.
NCMEC President Ernest Allen said the tip line got 150
responses in just the first day.
The CyberTipline was not intended to fan the flames of public
hysteria by exaggerating the prevalence of pornographers and
pedophiles on the Internet, he said.
"The message is not that the Internet is not a safe place for
kids," Allen said, but that "prevention, education and
information" -- coupled with the use of filtering software --
can help parents feel secure that their children are not in
danger while engaging in online activities.
On Tuesday, the NCMEC also marked the publication of an
update of a popular brochure on safe online conduct for teens
and parents written by Larry Magid
(http://www.larrysworld.com), a syndicated columnist for the
Los Angeles Times.
Reuters contributed to this report.