Who Are They?
When we think “internet predator” most will imagine someone who is preying upon our youth, utilizing technology, for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Most internet experts agree however that there are in fact 4 categories of internet predators:
1. The Emotional/Psychological Predator: This is the internet dating predator who will make you feel good, but wound you emotionally. These guys are chameleons and emotional shape-shifters who change their tactics to keep you around.
2. The Sexual/Physical Predator: This is the pedophile that preys upon our children.
3. The Reputation Predator: This is the person who will look to purposely damage your good reputation via spreading falsehoods or utilizing cyberbullying.
4. The Financial Predator: This is the person who will utilize the Internet to scam you out of your hard earned money.
Specific to the sexual predator, most internet predators are:
- Very computer savvy and blend well into the cyber world
- College graduates who are clean cut and outwardly law-abiding
- Have a successful careers, and use their position in society to throw off suspicion
- Usually middle aged males who appear to be trusting to both parents and children
The internet, and its anonymity, offers a virtual place for the online predator to hunt their prey with relative freedom be it for emotional, financial, physical or reputational crime. Many of these predators are extremely knowledgeable in youth subject matter and current events, and are able to speak with teens using current online lingo. They are experts at what they do: conducting research, and knowing how to build rapport quickly with their intended target. Of real importance is that these predators can be anyone, and as the group “Perverted Justice” has shown, they can be police officers, lawyers, actors, doctors, teachers, coaches, and CEO’s.
I do not believe in fear mongering specific to this topic area, but I do believe that we as parents need to stay alive and vigilant to the fact that sexual predators are online. Recently a Europol undercover operation called “Operation Rescue” busted an online pedophile ring with over 70,000 members. Out of this operation, 670 suspects were identified, with over 184 arrests made (including here in Canada) and 230 children safeguarded. Earlier in 2011, FBI Assistant Director Shawn Henry reported out that his law enforcement agency estimated that there were approximately 750,000 child predators online.
Although there is a belief out there that the internet predator that specializes in child pornography does so to make money, research has found that most distribution of this type of material is done on trade rather than for financial gain. Child pornographers like to expand their collections by trading with one another, and the Internet has been a boon to not only this type of activity, but also in the sharing of “trade secrets” such as how to cyber groom and lure our children for sexual exploitation and how to avoid law enforcement detection.
According to experts, there are four categories of Internet child sexual predators to be aware of:
This is a group of sex offenders who are interested in collecting child pornography, and usually do not want to meet a child in person.
This is a group of sexual offenders that will target children for the purpose of making a face-to-face meeting to have sex with them. These predators will become completely obsessed with the child they have targeted, and will travel vast distances to meet the child.
This group of sexual offenders is both a collector and distributor of child pornography. Not all collectors are manufacturers, but all manufacturers are collectors. These predators financially profit from selling child pornography. Often, this predator will entice the child/youth to create their own sexually inappropriate “show” via a web cam that they will now record and sell for money.
This group of sexual offenders rarely attempts to meet their victims face to face and often do not collect child pornography. Instead this group prefers to have cybersex or phone sex on sites such omegle.com.
Why Does The Internet Fuel These Sexual Predators?
- It offers easy and anonymous access to children and youth from around the world 24/7.
- It presents risky online behavior that children and youth engage in while online such as posting too much personal information in their non-secured social network, or even the willingness to freely interact with online strangers on sites such as Omegle.com, that the predator can hook into and take advantage of via social engineering. In our introduction we state that the research has consistently demonstrated that sexual predation (luring) cases typically involve teens that WILLINGLY meet with adults KNOWING they will be engaging in sexual activities. This same research has shown that the youth who are at the greatest risk online, in all areas of risk discussed (especially sexual exploitation in all its forms), and targeted by these predators are usually the same youth who are at greater risk in their offline real world activities. Often these are the youth that have significant psychosocial challenges, intentionally engage in risk from their peers in the form of sexual solicitation, sexual harassment, cyberbullying and have parents that are ineffectually involved in their online activity.
- It offers virtual validation from others of like-mindedness where they can share their conquests.
- It offers easy access to the thousands of child pornography sites, pictures, and video that are available 24/7.
- It offers the thrill of being chased by law enforcement, which they see as a challenge.
Like it or not, the internet has provided the perfect forum for these predators. The internet has ignited the deviant sexual appetite of the pedophile, who can now engage in their behavior 24/7, usually undetected, thus allowing them to target our children with the click of their mouse.
Digital Food For Thought