are our Nation's most valuable asset. They represent the
bright future of our country and hold our hopes for a
better Nation. Our children are also the most vulnerable
members of society. Protecting our children against the
fear of crime and from becoming victims of crime must
be a national priority.
the same advances in computer and telecommunication technology
that allow our children to reach out to new sources of
knowledge and cultural experiences are also leaving them
vulnerable to exploitation and harm by computer-sex offenders.
I hope that
this pamphlet helps you to begin to understand the complexities
of on-line child exploitation. For further information,
please contact your local FBI
office or the National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678.
Freeh, Former Director
Federal Bureau of Investigation
computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for
children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to
different cultures and ways of life, they can be exposed
to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information
highway. There are individuals who attempt to sexually
exploit children through the use of on-line services and
the Internet. Some of these individuals gradually seduce
their targets through the use of attention, affection,
kindness, and even gifts. These individuals are often
willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money,
and energy in this process. They listen to and empathize
with the problems of children. They will be aware of the
latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These
individuals attempt to gradually lower children's inhibitions
by slowly introducing sexual context and content into
There are other
individuals, however, who immediately engage in sexually
explicit conversation with children. Some offenders primarily
collect and trade child-pornographic images, while others
seek face-to-face meetings with children via on-line contacts.
It is important for parents to understand that children
can be indirectly victimized through conversation, i.e.
"chat," as well as the transfer of sexually
explicit information and material. Computer-sex offenders
may also be evaluating children they come in contact with
on-line for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization.
Parents and children should remember that a computer-sex
offender can be any age or sex the person does not have
to fit the caricature of a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing
a raincoat to be someone who could harm a child.
adolescents, are sometimes interested in and curious about
sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be
moving away from the total control of parents and seeking
to establish new relationships outside their family. Because
they may be curious, children/adolescents sometimes use
their on-line access to actively seek out such materials
and individuals. Sex offenders targeting children will
use and exploit these characteristics and needs. Some
adolescent children may also be attracted to and lured
by on-line offenders closer to their age who, although
not technically child molesters, may be dangerous. Nevertheless,
they have been seduced and manipulated by a clever offender
and do not fully understand or recognize the potential
danger of these contacts.
was prepared from actual investigations involving child
victims, as well as investigations where law enforcement
officers posed as children. Further information on protecting
your child on-line may be found in the National
Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Child
Safety on the Information Highway and Teen Safety on the
Information Highway pamphlets.
What Are Signs
That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?
child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially
that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large
amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. They
may go on-line after dinner and on the weekends. They
may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay
at home after school. They go on-line to chat with friends,
make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually
explicit information. While much of the knowledge and
experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider
monitoring the amount of time spent on-line.
are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While
offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during
the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate
and lure children or seeking pornography.
find pornography on your child's computer.
is often used in the sexual victimization of children.
Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with
pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and
for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the
child victim that sex between children and adults is "normal."
Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may
hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them. This
may be especially true if the computer is used by other
child receives phone calls from men you don't know or
is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you
to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex
offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk
to the children on the telephone. They often engage in
"phone sex" with the children and often seek
to set up an actual meeting for real sex.
While a child
may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number,
the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With
Caller ID, they can readily find out the child's phone
number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained
toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims
can call them without their parents finding out. Others
will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods
result in the computer-sex offender being able to find
out the child's phone number.
child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you
As part of
the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send
letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their
potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent
plane tickets in order for the child to travel across
the country to meet them.
child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes
the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
A child looking
at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations
does not want you to see it on the screen.
child becomes withdrawn from the family.
offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between
a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship.
They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the
child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after
child is using an on-line account belonging to someone
Even if you
don't subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service,
your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend's
house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with
on-line and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders
will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer
account for communications with them.
What Should You
Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A Sexual
- Consider talking openly
with your child about your suspicions. Tell them about
the dangers of computer-sex offenders.
- Review what is on your
child's computer. If you don't know how, ask a friend,
coworker, relative, or other knowledgeable person.
Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can
be a warning sign.
- Use the Caller ID service
to determine who is calling your child. Most telephone
companies that offer Caller ID also offer a service
that allows you to block your number from appearing
on someone else's Caller ID. Telephone companies also
offer an additional service feature that rejects incoming
calls that you block. This rejection feature prevents
computer-sex offenders or anyone else from calling
your home anonymously.
- Devices can be purchased
that show telephone numbers that have been dialed
from your home phone. Additionally, the last number
called from your home phone can be retrieved provided
that the telephone is equipped with a redial feature.
You will also need a telephone pager to complete this
- This is done using
a numeric-display pager and another phone that is
on the same line as the first phone with the redial
feature. Using the two phones and the pager, a call
is placed from the second phone to the pager. When
the paging terminal beeps for you to enter a telephone
number, you press the redial button on the first (or
suspect) phone. The last number called from that phone
will then be displayed on the pager.
- Monitor your child's
access to all types of live electronic communications
(i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay
Chat, etc.), and monitor your child's e-mail. Computer-sex
offenders almost always meet potential victims via
chat rooms. After meeting a child on-line, they will
continue to communicate electronically often via e-mail.
of the following situations arise in your household, via
the Internet or on-line service, you should immediately
contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the
FBI, and the National Center
for Missing and Exploited Children:
- Your child or anyone
in the household has received child pornography;
- Your child has been
sexually solicited by someone who knows that your
child is under 18 years of age;
- Your child has received
sexually explicit images from someone that knows your
child is under the age of 18.
If one of these
scenarios occurs, keep the computer turned off in order
to preserve any evidence for future law enforcement use.
Unless directed to do so by the law enforcement agency,
you should not attempt to copy any of the images and/or
text found on the computer.
What Can You
Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing
- Communicate, and talk
to your child about sexual victimization and potential
- Spend time with your
children on-line. Have them teach you about their
favorite on-line destinations.
- Keep the computer in
a common room in the house, not in your child's bedroom.
It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender
to communicate with a child when the computer screen
is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
- Utilize parental controls
provided by your service provider and/or blocking
software. While electronic chat can be a great place
for children to make new friends and discuss various
topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex
offenders. Use of chat rooms, in particular, should
be heavily monitored. While parents should utilize
these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on
- Always maintain access
to your child's on-line account and randomly check
his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be
contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with
your child about your access and reasons why.
- Teach your child the
responsible use of the resources on-line. There is
much more to the on-line experience than chat rooms.
- Find out what computer
safeguards are utilized by your child's school, the
public library, and at the homes of your child's friends.
These are all places, outside your normal supervision,
where your child could encounter an on-line predator.
- Understand, even if
your child was a willing participant in any form of
sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and
is the victim. The offender always bears the complete
responsibility for his or her actions.
- Instruct your children:
- to never arrange
a face-to-face meeting with someone they met
- to never upload
(post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet
or on-line service to people they do not personally
- to never give
out identifying information such as their name,
home address, school name, or telephone number;
- to never download
pictures from an unknown source, as there is
a good chance there could be sexually explicit
- to never respond
to messages or bulletin board postings that
are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
- that whatever
they are told on-line may or may not be true.
has received an e-mail advertising for a pornographic website,
what should I do?
advertising for an adult, pornographic website that is
sent to an e-mail address does not violate federal law
or the current laws of most states. In some states it
may be a violation of law if the sender knows the recipient
is under the age of 18. Such advertising can be reported
to your service provider and, if known, the service provider
of the originator. It can also be reported to your state
and federal legislators, so they can be made aware of
the extent of the problem.
service safer than the others?
have contacted children via most of the major on-line
services and the Internet. The most important factors
in keeping your child safe on-line are the utilization
of appropriate blocking software and/or parental controls,
along with open, honest discussions with your child, monitoring
his/her on-line activity, and following the tips in this
I just forbid my child from going on-line?
There are dangers
in every part of our society. By educating your children
to these dangers and taking appropriate steps to protect
them, they can benefit from the wealth of information
now available on-line.
Internet - An immense, global network that connects computers
via telephone lines and/or fiber networks to storehouses
of electronic information. With only a computer, a modem,
a telephone line and a service provider, people from all
over the world can communicate and share information with
little more than a few keystrokes.
Board Systems (BBSs)
- Electronic networks of computers that are connected by
a central computer setup and operated by a system administrator
or operator and are distinguishable from the Internet by
their "dial-up" accessibility. BBS users link
their individual computers to the central BBS computer by
a modem which allows them to post messages, read messages
left by others, trade information, or hold direct conversations.
Access to a BBS can, and often is, privileged and limited
to those users who have access privileges granted by the
On-line Service (COS)
- Examples of COSs are America Online, Prodigy, CompuServe
and Microsoft Network, which provide access to their service
for a fee. COSs generally offer limited access to the Internet
as part of their total service package.
Service Provider (ISP)
- Examples of ISPs are Erols, Concentric and Netcom. These
services offer direct, full access to the Internet at a
flat, monthly rate and often provide electronic-mail service
for their customers. ISPs often provide space on their servers
for their customers to maintain World Wide Web (WWW) sites.
Not all ISPs are commercial enterprises. Educational, governmental
and nonprofit organizations also provide Internet access
to their members.
Chat Rooms - Created, maintained, listed and monitored by the
COS and other public domain systems such as Internet Relay
Chat. A number of customers can be in the public chat rooms
at any given time, which are monitored for illegal activity
and even appropriate language by systems operators (SYSOP).
Some public chat rooms are monitored more frequently than
others, depending on the COS and the type of chat room.
Violators can be reported to the administrators of the system
(at America On-line they are referred to as terms of service
[TOS]) which can revoke user privileges. The public chat
rooms usually cover a broad range of topics such as entertainment,
sports, game rooms, children only, etc.
Mail (E-Mail) - A function of BBSs, COSs and ISPs which provides
for the transmission of messages and files between computers
over a communications network similar to mailing a letter
via the postal service. E-mail is stored on a server, where
it will remain until the addressee retrieves it. Anonymity
can be maintained by the sender by predetermining what the
receiver will see as the "from" address. Another
way to conceal one's identity is to use an "anonymous
remailer," which is a service that allows the user
to send an e-mail message repackaged under the remailer's
own header, stripping off the originator's name completely.
Chat - Real-time text conversation between users in a
chat room with no expectation of privacy. All chat conversation
is accessible by all individuals in the chat room while
the conversation is taking place.
Messages - Private, real-time text conversation between two
users in a chat room.
Relay Chat (IRC) - Real-time text conversation similar to public and/or
private chat rooms on COS.
(Newsgroups) - Like a giant, cork bulletin board where users post
messages and information. Each posting is like an open letter
and is capable of having attachments, such as graphic image
files (GIFs). Anyone accessing the newsgroup can read the
postings, take copies of posted items, or post responses.
Each newsgroup can hold thousands of postings. Currently,
there are over 29,000 public newsgroups and that number
is growing daily. Newsgroups are both public and/or private.
There is no listing of private newsgroups. A user of private
newsgroups has to be invited into the newsgroup and be provided
with the newsgroup's address.
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Innocent Images National Initiative
11700 Beltsville Drive
Calverton, MD 20705
Contact your local
FBI office for further information