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Myths About Internet Sexual Predators

The truth about Internet creeps and how to defend your family against them
(Image is in the Public Domain)

Some very interesting facts from the Crimes Against Children Research Center:

In the vast majority of Internet sex crimes against young people, offenders did not actually deceive youth about the fact that they were adults who had sexual intentions. Acknowledging that they were older, the offenders seduced youth by being understanding, sympathetic, flattering, and by appealing to young people’s interest in romance, sex and adventure.

Although cases of abduction, forcible rape and murder have occurred, they are very rare. According to research looking at crimes ending in arrest, violence occurred in only 5% of cases. In most encounters, victims meet offenders voluntarily and expect sexual activity, because they feel love or affection for the person they have been corresponding with. Typically they have sex with the adult on multiple occasions. Most of these crimes are statutory rather than forcible rapes.

Virtually all cases of Internet sex crimes involve youth 12 and up. Most victims are ages 13 – 15. Younger children have much less interest than teens in interacting with and going to meet unknown persons they have encountered online. Avoid implying that the typical youngster vulnerable to online offenders is a young child.

Research has shown that simply posting or sending some personal information online does not put youth at risk. The reason is that most young people (like most adults) do give out personal information. It is hard to be online without doing so. A warning ("Never give out personal information online") that is so broad and runs counter to such common practices is not likely to make young people trust the source of such advice.

And a set of consolidated advice:

  1. Be smart about what you post on the Web and what you say to others. The Web is a lot more public and permanent than it seems.
  2. Provocative and sexy names and pictures can draw attention from people you don't want in your life.
  3. Sexy pictures can get you into trouble with the law. If you are underage, they may be considered child pornography, a serious crime.
  4. Be careful what you download or look at, even for a laugh. Some of the images on the Internet are extreme, and you can’t “unsee ? something.
  5. Going to sex chat rooms and other sex sites may connect you with people who can harass you in ways you don't anticipate.
  6. Free downloads and file-sharing can put pornography on your computer that you may not want and can be hard to get rid of . Any pornography that shows children or teens under 18 is illegal child pornography and can get you in big trouble.
  7. Adults who talk to you about sex online are committing a crime. So are adults who meet underage teens for sex. Some teens think it might be fun, harmless or romantic, but it means serious trouble for everyone. It’s best to report it.
  8. Don't play along with people on the Web who are acting badly, taking risks and being weird. Even if you think it's harmless and feel like you can handle it, it only encourages them and may endanger other young people.
  9. Report it when other people are acting weird and inappropriately or harassing you or others. It's less trouble just to log off, but these people may be dangerous. Save the communication. Contact the site management, your service provider, the CyberTipline or even the police.
  10. Don't let friends influence your better judgment. If you are surfing with other kids, don't let them pressure you to do things you ordinarily wouldn't.
  11. Be careful if you ever go to meet someone you have gotten to know through the Internet. You may think you know them well, but they may fool you. Go with a friend. Tell your parents. Meet in a public place. Make sure your have your cell phone and an exit plan.
  12. Don’t harass others. People may retaliate in ways you don’t expect.
  13. You can overestimate your ability to handle things. It may feel like you are careful, savvy, aware of dangers, and able to manage the risks you take, but there are always unknowns. Don’t risk disasters.

The above is documented in this PDF.

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