The Internet is increasingly becoming a breeding ground for pedophiles. This research paper is based on literature review and intended to identify the specific challenges facing crime preventers such as law enforcement officers, parents and concerned communities while dealing with cyber pedophiles.
The study has a literature review section, where data from other researches and studies is gathered, a research findings section, where I have documented the information collected and a recommendations section where I have stated some of the ways that can be used by the parents and the law enforcement agents in order to detect and bring pedophiles to justice.
The current day pedophiles rake through internet sites, chat rooms and newsgroups in search of an easy target. This is unlike the pre-internet age when like minded criminals would prey upon children on open playgrounds and schools. The internet provides the cyber pedophiles with the anonymity and the extra confidence required to go about their evil plans with a slim chance of identification and prosecution.
The internet also provides them with a mode through which they can build confidence among their targeted children in preparation for the physical encounter. Pedophiles bold enough to manipulate their children targets sexually use pornographic materials where children are featured in order to justify their actions to the child and prove to the child that sex is not after all a negative thing (Dixon 1).
In view of the increasing risks posed to children by the cyber predators, different government have reacted to the situation through passing relevant laws that would enhance bringing the perpetrators to justice and more importantly, detecting predators before they commit a crime hence preventing more children from abuse. In Britain for example, the police have been given the mandate to “track and capture” that lure children on the internet with the intention of committing sexual crimes to them (Dixon 1).
It is noteworthy that cyber predators do not identify themselves as adults. Often, they will lurk in forums that are popular with their targets and even engage in conversations with the children pretending to be one of them (Dixon 6). In the developed countries (incidentally pedophile crimes are higher in the developed countries due to the wide spread use of the internet by children), the law enforcement officers have realized the need to use similar tactics to detect the pedophiles.
While parents would play a vital role in warning and hence preventing their children from falling prey to the pedophiles, Dixon notes that most parents are either too busy doing other things rather than watching and guiding their children, or are simply technologically challenged hence lacking the means to monitor what their children are engaging in cyber space (6). Others are ignorant about the probability and seriousness of cyber crimes committed against children.
The intent of law enforcers to curtail the activities of cyber pedophiles is challenged by the fact that cyber crime is not as straightforward as other forms of crime. Ekblom notes that for law enforcers to prevent a crime from happening, they must be able to establish that there are motivated offenders and facilitators of the crime (252).
More to this, there must be an attractive or a vulnerable target (in this case children below 18 years), and may be the presence of careless, deliberate of unwitting crime promoter (for example uncensored chat rooms where children are exposed to pornographic materials) (Ekblom 252).
The duty of the law enforcers in this case would be to prevent crime either by limiting access of children by pedophiles, sounding an alarm or intervening when they detect a lurking pedophile and reacting by identifying the pedophile, pursuing and arresting them. In cyber crime, this would involve a lot of technological surveillance by the law enforcers.
Although Ekblom notes that children, parents, law enforcement officers and the community at large are more informed today than was the case ten years ago about pedophiles and how to stop it (250), Sommer states that the children who are unlucky enough to fall prey to the same crime lack the necessary legal and prosecution powers to ensure that their abusers face justice (2). For starters, law enforcement officers are faced by technological challenges, which consequently make them to gather “admissible” evidence that conforms to probative values of the courts (Sommer 2).
According to courts standards, the evidence produced in court against an accused person must be authentic and accurate, in addition to providing a complete account as an exhibit. Sommer notes that handling digital evidence by law enforcement officers have proved quite challenging over the years because “a record or a log can be changed with a few typed keystrokes, and this can remove all traces of crime” (2).
Further complicating the process of pedophile detection and prosecution is the fact that most pedophiles see computers and internet as a hobby and are thus always eager to try out and exploit latest technology releases to their advantage (Sommers 2). If the law enforcement officers and investigators are not equally versed with the technology used, some evidence may be lost.
Penna et al (2) states that pedophiles misuse the internet to; 1) enhance communication between like minded people (communication between pedophiles), 2) Communicate with their target children and transferring files that promotes their intent to the children, 3) locate viable targets for molestation, whereby they initiate communication, learn about the child and strike when the child is vulnerable, and 4) traffic and publicize pedophiles themes through web-based stories or images.
This research has established that the rising incidence of cyber pedophile has given rise to different solutions. Packet sniffers are among the network monitoring software that is common used among law enforcement agencies (Penna et al 5). The packet sniffers capture explicit children related data and trace it down to the related sender and receiving Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.
With the help of the Internet service provider, the law enforcement officers can be able to trace down the IP address and the owner. With increased use of Internet Cafes however, this is usually a preventative measure to the recipient address owner (if a child) since the sender may use different IP computers and hence IP addresses at given times.
Different software that analyze and monitor chat rooms are also used in children based chat groups. According to Penna et al, such software follows chat messages in search of adult language and hence detecting any adults posing as children (5).
However the challenge posed by such software is that they cannot keep up with the multiple simultaneous chats conversations that happen in any given chat room at all times. This hence leaves room for criminal element to penetrate the chat rooms. Discourse analysis is also a way that law enforcers use to trace pedophiles (Penna et al 5).
Here they monitor language interactions for pornographic themes, existing relationships between children and pedophiles or pedophile peers, support themes for pedophiles and related information. Image analysis is also used to detect pornographic images sent to children. With the internet awash with countless pornographic images, law enforcers find it hard to pick specific images that are intended for the underage audience.
This study has found out that technological challenges remain the single most challenge to law enforcement officers, parents and community members who care for the children. More to this, pedophiles can falsify emails accounts and use the same to lure children. IP hiding is also another technique that can be used to hide the identity of people chatting on a specific platform hence giving the pedophile an easy way to execute his attack strategies. Internet hacking has also been identified as a way through which pedophiles take control of another person’s computer and use the same for pedophile activities without the owner of the same knowing (Sommers 2).
According to Ekblom, technology is changing fast (258). Having established in the literature review section that most pedophiles are technological savvy and ready to utilize any new technology to their advantage, it is clear that the crime preventers need to adopt just as fast to new technology.
While Ekblom acknowledges that cyber criminals are “highly creative in spotting opportunities and adopting coping countermeasures”, he observes that “crime preventers need to build on intelligence and creativity in order to increase their adaptive capacities and handle contingencies” (258). This means that law enforcement officers need to keep up with technological advancement if the fight against pedophile is to be won.
Parents also need to play an active role in educating their children about the possibility of meeting pedophiles online. Tremblay notes that if parents were as vibrant watching the activities that the children engage in while on the internet as they were when they watch them on the playgrounds, then cyber pedophile would not be as big a problem as it is today (6).
More to this, parents need to teach their children about the extent of information that they can give out on the internet. “Children should be taught to interpret the ‘where do you go to school, when do u leave school and when can I see you’ type of questions as signs of real danger” (Tremblay 7).
The cases of cyber pedophile attacks can be drastically brought down in different communities with a combination of increased parental responsibility and a more vibrant law enforcement unit dedicated specifically to tracking down pedophiles planning attacks on innocent children.
It’s notable that pedophiles who are deterred from committing their intended action on target children never give up easily. They keep trying out new targets. This thus raises the need for the law enforcement officers to devise better ways through which the pedophiles can be traced and arrested before committing crimes against children.
The legal hurdle that faces investigators when the pedophiles are charged in court needs to be re-defined, consider the dynamics presented by the ever changing environment of the cyber world. Overall, this study recognizes that there is a need to develop more effective tools to profile, monitor and analyze pedophile activities in order to increase the accuracy of detecting and arresting the offenders.
Dixon, Nicolee. Catching ‘Cyber Predators’: The Sexual Offences (Protection Of Children) Amendment Bill 2002 (Qld). The Queensland Parliamentary Library. Dec. 2002. 9 March, 2010.
Ekblom, Paul. “Gearing up against Crime: a Dynamic framework to help Designers keep up with the Adaptive Criminal in the Changing World”. International Journal of Risk, Security and Crime prevention. October 1997. Vol. 2, No. 4, Pp 249-265.
Penna, Lyta, Clark, Andrew & Mohay, George. Challenges of Automating the Detection of Pedophile Activity on the Internet. IEEE Computer Society. May, 2009. 9 March 2010.
Sommer, peter. “Evidence in Internet Pedophile Cases.” Information Systems Integrity group. July 2002. 9 March, 2010.
Tremblay, Pierre. Social Interactions among Pedophiles. May 2008. 9 March 9, 2010.