By Michael Ryan
The average pedophile will victimize between 50-150 children before he comes to the attention of law enforcement. A large and growing number of predators have gravitated towards the internet, reasoning that browsing the personal profiles children themselves post on instant message services and anonymously lurking in chat rooms is less risky and more effective than hanging around playgrounds and schoolyards. The number of predators using the internet to groom children for future exploitation rises every month.
How do internet predators select their victims? Here are some important factors:
- Almost by definition, internet predators favor children who have regular (and private) access to a computer. Most victims live in suburban or rural areas while relatively few live in inner cities.
- Internet predators gravitate towards children who are online for lengthy periods of time each day, and usually at the same time of day. Predators seek children whose schedules mesh with their own, children who are online most days during a consistent time frame. Think about it… predators have little chance to groom a child for future exploitation if that child is rarely online or is online at various times of the day. Children who do not have a lot of activities outside of school tend to be online longer and at the same times of day compared to those children who have lots of activities. These children are more often targeted by internet predators.
- Internet predators prefer children who have instant message accounts. Although some predators use email, many prefer communicating with their victims through instant messages. Predators know that while emails are saved automatically and have to be manually deleted, instant messages tend to evaporate into the ether once the instant message window is closed. Parents can keep a permanent record of instant message conversations by installing instant message monitoring software on their children’s computers. PCSentinel Software ( www.pcsentinelsoftware.com ) is one vendor of such software.
- Internet predators search out children who will speak to them. Again this seems self-evident, but predators are forced to pass over children who refuse to communicate with strangers they have not met offline. Teach your children never to communicate online with someone they have not met offline.
- Internet predators search out children who are vulnerable and lonely, sheltered and naive. Predators seek to develop a relationship with their targets, often posing as children or teenagers themselves, and then use that relationship to initiate sexual discussion and activity or lure the child into an offline meeting.
- Internet predators are all the more emboldened if they find out a child is from a single parent family, having trouble at school or with the law, or has been experimenting with drugs, alcohol or sexual activity.
- Internet predators search out children who post personal profiles on the internet, especially those that provide name, age, photos, gender, physical description, telephone number, address, etc.
- Internet predators favor targets who own webcams or digital cameras. Predators often coerce children into using these devices to send images of themselves to the predator. If a child does not own a camera, predators sometimes send one to their targets for the purpose of photographing themselves.
- To be successful, internet predators require children who will not terminate the relationship at the first suggestion of sexual activity. Even if a vulnerable child with few friends is uncomfortable with sexual talk, they will sometimes put up with the unpleasantness
- Internet predators seem to favor victims between the ages of 12-15. These are the ages where children are discovering their own sexuality and independence, and also the ages where they are most likely to be conned into meeting with a stranger without telling their parents. Younger and older children are also solicited, but as a whole tend to be harder targets.
Michael Ryan owns and operates PCSentinel Software, developer of easy-to-use keylogger software such as PCSentinel’s Busted: Keylogger and Instant Message Monitor and PCSentinel’s Red-Handed: Record Instant Messages!