Opinion: Pedophiles and social networks

POSTED: 04/23/12 1:49 PM

Social networks are all the rage among especially young people. Privacy concerns have gone out the window a long time ago: youngsters share their most intimate thoughts with anonymous web surfers they will probably never meet. There is clear and present danger in these activities. British researchers found that pedophiles use social networks as their digital hunting grounds.

Researchers at the Kingston University interviewed 33 convicted pedophiles in prisons in Great Britain, Belgium and Norway. They also analyzed stored chat conversations between pedophiles and their potential victims.

The researchers found that modern pedo’s use a brutal tactic: they ask hundreds of girls questions of a sexual nature, abandoning traditional conquering techniques whereby they used to build up a relationship based on trust with their victims.

Often pedophiles don’t waste much time before they pose their first sexually oriented question. “I just went online and asked immediately: what is your name and what is your bra-size?” a British pedophile told the researchers.

Some men spent many hours a day talking to dozens of girls from different countries, intent on seducing them to webcam sex or to a date. They kept score of their progress with Excel worksheets and other administrative tools.

Criminologist Julia Davidson says that girls react to friendship requests from strangers “because it adds to their status to have many virtual friends.”

Young people also handle digital contacts more casually than adults. An adult says: how is it possible to have a thousand friends on Facebook? It is impossible to know all those people? Young people think: I know them because I chat with them.”

The research project was paid for by the European Commission. It should lead to better information for youngsters and their parents. Davidson says that many youngsters associate pedophiles with fat old men. But the pedophiles that took part in the research were anything but that: their average age was 35 and they had an IQ of 110. Part of the group had a steady relationship or was married.

Not everybody agrees with the outcome of the study, mainly because the interviewed pedophiles were serious criminals.

A spokeswoman for a childporn hotline told the Volkskrant that the majority of youngsters do not fall for the tricks of online pedophlies. As soon as a cyber hunter approaches them with a dirty proposal or a picture of their private parts they think yikes and they click him away.”
We think that this spoeswoman misses the point. What these online pedophiles do is akin to sending mass mailings Nigerian style, expecting some sucker to fall for a non-existing financial deal. The majority of people that receive such scam emails ignore them, but these mails keep coming because a small percentage is vulnerable enought to fall for it.

The same goes for the cyber-attacks by pedophiles on young children (boys and girls). Of course most kids will take the yikes-approach and end the chat. But that’s most kids, not all kids. And it does not matter where they live: in the United States, the Netherlands, the Philippines or St. Maarten. There are vulnerable kids everywhere – and parents that think that their children are smart enough not to fall for these perverts ought to think again. They should at least check on their offspring’s online activigties on occasion. Better safe than sorry.

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