Child Predators: The Online Threat Continues to Grow
It’s a recipe for trouble: naive teenagers, predatory adults, and a medium—the Internet—that easily connects them.
“It’s an unfortunate fact of life that pedophiles are everywhere online,” said Special Agent Greg Wing, who supervises a cyber squad in our Chicago Field Office.
When a young person visits an online forum for a popular teen singer or actor, Wing said, “Parents can be reasonably certain that online predators will be there.” It is believed that more than half a million pedophiles are online every day.
Agents assigned to our Innocent Images National Initiative are working hard to catch these child predators and to alert teens and parents about the dark side of the Internet—particularly when it comes to social networking sites and, increasingly, online gaming forums.
Pedophiles go where children are. Before the Internet, that meant places such as amusement parks and zoos. Today, the virtual world makes it alarmingly simple for pedophiles—often pretending to be teens themselves—to make contact with young people.
Even without being someone’s “friend” online, which allows access to one’s social networking space, pedophiles can see a trove of teenagers’ personal information—the town they live in, the high school they attend, their favorite music and TV programs—because the youngsters often post it for anyone to see.
“The younger generation wants to express themselves, and they don't realize how vulnerable it makes them,” Wing said.