Dramatic increases in technology and its availability on the consumer level, coupled with a decline in cost, have given those who would exploit children a remarkably effective and far-reaching ability with which to do so. What before had required a well-funded and equipped group of deviates now requires very little expense or effort. Indeed, anyone with no more than $500 can be online in a matter of hours, collecting, manufacturing, and distributing child pornography and soliciting minors, including live chat, streaming video-on-demand, and more.
Child Pornography on the Internet has become an ever-increasing issue of importance because of the growth of the Internet. The Internet is unlike other forms of mass communication because each user is a potential supplier. The Internet knows no national boundaries, which poses real challenges to law enforcement in trying to protect minors from illegal or harmful influences.
Many factors of Internet technology have proven to be very attractive to child sexual abusers, pornographers and pedophiles. They flock to the Internet to share images and information about children and to make contact with children. They are major contributors to children's chat rooms, frequently pretending to be children themselves.
Some pedophiles go further and actively try to arrange meetings with children, often going to extraordinary efforts and incurring large travel and other expenses -- and, sadly, some of them succeed.
HOW CAN CHILDREN BE VICTIMIZED ON THE INTERNET?
Online child sexual exploitation involves three primary activities:
1) Online arrangements for the exchange, sale or purchase of child pornography. The actual exchange or delivery occurs through the mail or in hand-to-hand exchanges, e-mail, FTP, and other electronic means.
2) Arrangements between adults seeking sexual access to children, and adults willing to provide and/or trade children for sexual purposes.
3) Adults seeking sexual contact with children by establishing "friendships" with children online. Having "befriended" a child online, the pedophile then attempts to arrange a face-to-face meeting and, ultimately, the sexual exploitation of the child.
THE SILENT VICTIMS
When a child is sexually exploited for any reason, that child is always a victim. When the events are recorded using videotape, audiotape, live 'streaming' video on the Internet or photography, there is always a permanent and recurring record of the crime -- each time it is downloaded, viewed or redistributed. Children who have been exposed to pornography may become desensitized and socialized into believing that pornographic activity is "normal." On the other hand, many children are unaware that their activities are being recorded and distributed.
Children who have been sexually abused and involved in the production of pornography frequently demonstrate a multitude of symptoms, including: emotional withdrawal, anti-social behavior, mood swings, depression, fear and anxiety. These symptoms alone are not enough to suggest sexual abuse, but are common to its victims. Such children are also at high risk to later become perpetrators of child exploitation themselves. The most destructive feelings these child victims carry are guilt and shame.
Child abuse claims more than one million victims per year worldwide. Among the different kinds of abuse, child pornography ranks high. Sexual predators enjoying their supposed "anonymity" on the Internet lurk in chat rooms seeking out their next child victims -- whether for illicit drugs, child pornography, sexual encounters, or all of the above.
The scope of the problem is much larger than anyone had anticipated, and is growing so exponentially as to be impossible to track.
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