We teach our kids not to talk to talk to strangers or open the door to people they do not know. Yet, we leave a window wide open in our house. Every time, they use the Internet, they can be lured into talking to any number of strangers of diverse backgrounds, motives and moral outlook. More worryingly, these strangers can solicit our children via anonymous or deceitful identities.

Studies in US show that one in seven children receive sexual offers online when using their home PCs. Yet only 20 countries make owing or downloading child porno a crime. Child porno has also become uglier and more horrifying in recent years. Websites that portray naked children in suggestive poses are considered mild and meek. Instead online users get to view a bound and gagged two-year-old toddler being raped or sodomised, while crying out for the perpetrator to stop the abuse. In the Internet images shown, 92% expose genitalia and explicit sexual acts, 80% show penetration while 21% show rape, bondage or torture. Moreover, the abused children are getting younger: 86% of those abused are under 12 while almost 50% are between three to five. Online child porno is a lucrative business worth at least US$3 billion.

While education and awareness are important measures to fight the crime, technology is another useful tool. Although the Internet has opened up more avenues for child pornography to proliferate and be distributed, technology, likewise, can be used by law enforcement officers to track and detain sexual criminals. Microsoft’s Child Exploitation Tracking System or CETS can piece together information in the Net to profile and track sexual offenders. It works by searching, compiling, analysing, and linking databases. Besides, parents need to instill guidance and control their children’s Internet activities with the help of suitable software. Filter programs can scan websites for keywords that expose children to harmful activities. Free filter programs include Jusprog and ICRAplus while T-Online and AOL also provide filter systems for their users. However the use of codes and secret names by sexual predators and pedophiles has managed to elude the security web provided by these filters. Moderated chat rooms also ensure that anything keyed in by a child is first checked by a moderator before being revealed on screen though children particularly teenagers will resent this type of prying and monitoring. Parents can also set time-restricted accounts, subscribe to notification of blacklisted websites, or check the browser’s history after their children have used the Internet.

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