With over 45 million children ages 10 – 17 using the internet, only 52% of parents are moderately supervising their children’s online activity, leaving a window of opportunity for internet predators to take full advantage of the lack of responsible adult supervision.
Online predators are not only internet savvy but they are very skilled in the control and manipulation of children’s vulnerabilities. They lurk in chat rooms looking for prey to entice into private conversations, e-mails, instant messages and photo exchanges.
Seducing children with lots of attention and lending a sympathetic ear for their adolescent problems is the deceptive way in which a predator lures children into devious exploitative behavior. These children are emotionally, intellectually and physically weaker than the predator who uses this to lead the child into this behavior.
But predators don’t just commit sex crimes. Many entice their unsuspecting young victims to participate in fraudulent activity such as selling stolen goods, running scams, cons, identity or banking theft or by extracting their parent’s personal information to gain access to financial data. This can be achieved by having the child download malicious software or run a trojan program from an email attachment.
Kids who are not being supervised by an adult can also be persuaded by their peers into committing online crimes. The same anonymity that protects the online predator from detection can also shield kids who commit online crimes.
The American Journal of Criminal Justice found that juveniles in middle and high school whose peers committed cyber-crimes and are deemed risk takers, were more likely to engage in the same illegal activities.
The Most Common Cyber Crimes:
- Identity Theft – Every year in the United States, there are 9 million victims of identity theft.
- Cyber stalking – Repeatedly harassing another person online with taunts that are sexual in nature, defaming, sending abusive emails that are usually associated with anger and or hostility.
- Pornography – Involving production and distribution of pornographic material including child pornography, used to exploit children.
- Pirate Copyrighted Software – The unauthorized use or distribution of software.
- Music & Movie Piracy – Illegal downloading of copyrighted songs or movies costing the industry to lose millions of dollars of revenue.
- Computer Hacking – The practice of finding out weaknesses in an established system and exploiting them, motivated by a multitude of reasons, such as profit, protest, or challenge. The U.S. Secret Service and law enforcement agencies state that in a vast majority of attacks (80%), hackers hit victims of opportunity rather than companies they sought out.
- Fraud – Create bogus accounts on ecommerce sites such as eBay to sell non-existent merchandise.
Cyber crimes rob U.S. businesses billions of dollars a year and the nation of jobs and lost tax revenues.
Where there is smoke there is fire – Here are a few warning signs that your child may be engaging in illegal online activity:
- Using the internet excessively, especially at night
- Spending a lot of time in chat rooms
- Changes in behavior and being secretive about online activity
- Quickly turning off the computer or changing software applications when someone else enters the room
- Receiving or making phone calls to strangers and or receiving gifts or letters from them.
- Uses an on-line account belonging to someone else, or has multiple e-mail addresses.
- Downloaded pornographic or pictures of strangers and or is receiving graphic image files (those files with “GIF”, “JPG”, or “BMP”, extensions).
- You find software on the computer that you did not purchase
Think you have no parental liability for your child’s online crime, even if you have no knowledge of what your child is doing on the internet? Think again. In the United States, at least 10 states and dozens of municipalities have enacted parental liability laws with punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment. The state of California is the leader in establishing more punitive parental liability legislation. Parental liability laws main goal is to involve parents in their children’s lives, promote improvement of parental control over their children and lessen youth crime off and on the internet.
If you don’t pay attention to your children and supervise their online activity, someone else will.