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Internet Porn, Plus Child Predators, Make Web Doubly Dangerous for Children

by Mary Rettig and Jenni Parker
April 11, 2006
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(AgapePress) - - Family Research Council (FRC) vice president Charmaine Yoest says although it may be difficult for many Americans to imagine that sex tourism could be such a big business in their country, the fact that it is can be attributed largely to the proliferation of pornography in the U.S.

A recent article by Reuters noted that the FBI has identified 14 U.S. cities as hubs for forced child prostitution, including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, and New York. The report also said many times initial encounters between the child exploiters and their victims are set up through the Internet.

However, to the FRC's Yoest, these revelations come as no surprise. "You're tying some things together that may seem different," she says, "but, in actual fact, the message that people need to get is that pornography and child exploitation and online predators are all connected together."

While pornography may generally begin in a print form, the pro-family spokeswoman notes, cyberspace has created an opportunity for an evil industry to extend its reach. "Now that you have the Internet that's capable of spreading [pornographic material] further," she says, "it just is a real tool for child predators and for pedophiles."

Yoest points to two recent news stories she feels have added to the already ample evidence that steps must be taken to stop Internet pornography now. The first was the disturbing incident of an official in the Department of Homeland Security, Brian J. Doyle, who was arrested and charged after holding sexually explicit conversations online with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl, but who turned out to be a detective.

According to a SecurityFocus website article, Doyle allegedly tried to talk the "girl" into buying a webcam after discussing sexual acts he wanted to perform with the supposed minor, and even sent "her" pictures of himself taken at the DHS headquarters wearing a Homeland Security pin.

The second story indicating the urgency of addressing the Internet porn problem, Yoest notes, involves the Senate testimony of Justin Berry -- a boy who, at the age of 13, bought a webcam in hopes of meeting other kids online. But instead of finding the friendship he craved on the Internet, this lonely boy was drawn in by voyeuristic child predators, who seduced him into secretly selling sexual images of himself on the web.

According to the New York Times' report, Berry's tragic exploitation is a "collateral effect of recent technological advances" which allow children, often under the online influence of adults, to use inexpensive webcams in setting up for-pay porn sites featuring their own images. And very often, the article points out, "these kids perform from the privacy of home, while parents are nearby, beyond their children's closed bedroom doors."

While tales like these have caught many in the U.S. by surprise, Yoest says they should prove to caring parents that watching children's Internet use is of the utmost importance. She urges parents to be aware of to whom their children are talking on the Internet, and to educate themselves as well as their kids about the dangers lurking there.

"We've been sounding the alarm for years that there really is a problem with sex trafficking and that people don't understand that it's not necessarily a problem that only happens in other countries," the FRC vice president notes.

"This question of child porn, child exploitation -- it's a good thing that it's in the news so heavily," Yoest adds. She says the fact that the Internet is so ubiquitous and so easily accessible to children should spur parents on to action in the fight against pornography.

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