Dr. Leigh Baker, who headed the trauma treatment centers study says that being anonymous on the internet can often make individuals feel far more open to crossing the line and moving beyond fantasy For people who are on the verge of engaging in immoral behavior involving sexual exploitation of children and teens, the internet can be very dangerous.
The explosion of online networking has created many positive opportunities, but it has also exposed many individuals to significant risk. More adolescents are online that ever before using services such as MySpace and Facebook. It is estimated that nearly 55% of all teens are members of some type of social networking site. Approximately 44% of those teens said they have been approached by strangers online. Of that number, about 22% say they have actually followed up and replied to the stranger.
Even more alarming statistics show that nearly 15% of all teenage girls on the internet have at one point arranged face-to-face encounters with strangers on the internet. Experts believe this number to actually be much higher, because most teenagers will not admit to doing so because they don’t want to get in trouble. For the most part they know what they are doing is wrong, but they don’t always see how dangerous it can be.
Due to the incredibly large amount of trafficking in child pornography, many temptations are created on the internet that wouldn’t be there normally. It’s also much more difficult to fight the problem than in off the internet situations because authorities don’t have profiles of the deviants so there is much left unknown.
The problem also extends much further than just arranging real life meetings. Many teenagers are being exploited through sexual chat and online pornography. This can involve the child setting up webcams or sending photographs of themselves. Just because it doesn’t result in the child meeting anyone face to face it can still cause severe trauma.
Many of the offenders do not even view what they are doing as sexual abuse because there is no face to face aspect of it. Many of them think that it isn’t even wrong. They believe that the internet turns into this type of fantasy world where they don’t have to live up to their responsibilities as they would in real life.
It is important to talk to you child and find out what they are doing online. Try to limit their use of MySpace and if you can find out who they are friends with. Until there is a way to solve the problem completely it is extremely important to communicate with your child and educate them.