Editors of This New York Times story I’m about to discuss, which involves child pornography, should have warned how upsetting it might be to parents. Be aware that my post below discusses said upsetting issue.
It took me a long time before I was comfortable posting pictures of my children on DadTalk. After all, it is very easy to appropriate a picture, alter it and use it for nefarious purposes. I don’t know if my fear was misplaced or not, but eventually, I relaxed a bit and decided to run selected pictures.
I bring this up because technological advancements are moving faster than we can determine whether the innovations are good, bad, neutral or all of the above.
It turns out some technology, such as webcams and high-speed internet connections, can be a predator’s dream. Just ask Justin Berry, a boy who was lured into the latest version of the child pornography subculture, reports The New York Times.
Justin was a 13-year-old boy when he received his first webcam. As soon as Justin’s image showed up online, male predators started asking him to disrobe. They sent him money and gifts via Amazon.com. Eventually he made hundreds of thousands of dollars for his sexual poses. Justin developed a following of about 1,500 perverts who prodded him into broadcasting his eventual sexual activity.
In an unusual but sensible break with journalistic tradition, New York Times writer Kurt Eichenwald became part of this story by persuading Justin, who is now 19, to give up webcam porn and become a witness against those who are committing sex crimes against children.
I won’t go into the more gory details of the story, which is lengthy. But as I said at the beginning of this post, it’s an example of how some parents can lose their kids, at least in part, to technology. For those wondering, the story describes how Justin was able to hide his alter ego from his mom.
Granted, Justin does not come from a healthy family. At one point his biological dad, who was hiding from troubles in America, helped Justin run his pornographic webcam business from Mexico.
But it also is clear that there are predators and vulnerable children out there. It is incumbent on parents, especially those who are not home for part of the day, to find ways to manage their children’s access to computers.
We’ve discussed before on this site that your child’s computer should be out in the open in a place easy for parents to observe. If computers are in a child’s room, they should not be hooked up to the Internet without software controls.
Norton Internet Security 2006, for example, allows users to control what programs and websites children can access. And fellow blogger Mark Sicignano sells ComputerTime, which limits the amount of time a child can spend on the computer.
When I was a kid, the lowly videotape was the vehicle that brought child porn into the home. Before that, it was magazines. Instant Messaging and chat rooms allow predators to pose as innocent children.
Even if parents know all this, they must remain vigilant for each new technological onslaught. Perhaps phone cams will become the tool of choice in the future. Or maybe it will be something that hasn’t hit the market yet. Even if our own kids are not in direct danger, we should also remember that one of their friends from the troubled family down the street might be.
Stories I haven’t had time to read yet.