Children at risk on the Internet

Child molestation is a national epidemic. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children says 20 percent of girls and 10 percent of boys will suffer some form of sexual assault in their lives.

The National Institute of Health estimates that a pedophile will assault 117 kids before being caught. And yet, if pedophiles are so dangerous that they need to be “registered,” why is it that they are ever released from prison in the first place? (If I follow the argument correctly, the death penalty is not appropriate, but “regulation” is way cool.)

Another example of this stupefaction made national headlines last month. In Florida, 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford was abducted from her home, sexually assaulted, murdered and buried in a shallow grave.

The man who confessed was 46-year-old John Couey, a registered offender who had a prior conviction in 1991 for molesting another girl. If you needed further proof that there is no such thing as a rehabilitated pedophile, consider this: Couey had 24 arrests in 30 years. In a display of “timeliness,” Florida prosecutors are now seeking the death penalty.

Many pedophiles get access to children through the Internet.

Consider these statistics available at Webwise Kids (

There are an estimated 605 million people online.

Kids aged 12-17 account for 20 percent of all online users.

The FBI estimates one in five kids has received a sexual advance online.

In one poll, 86 percent of girls said they could chat online without their parents’ knowledge, and 54 percent could conduct a cyber-relationship.

Thirty percent of teen girls in another poll said they had been sexually harassed in a chat room, yet only 7 percent told their parents for fear that their Internet access would be restricted.

Nearly 60 percent of teens surveyed have received an instant message or e-mail from a stranger, and 50 percent report interacting via e-mail or instant messaging with someone they haven’t met before.Those who prey on kids use the Internet because it’s simple to hide their own identity. While most kids won’t talk to strangers in person, they will readily strike up conversations with absolute strangers in cyberspace. This allows a pedophile to approach a child without creating suspicion. (Your child is most likely to be targeted if he or she has an accurate and truthful online profile.)

Once a “relationship” is established, most children will eventually reveal a litany of personal information to cyber-friends—perhaps unknowingly.

If you’re like most parents, you haven’t really thought much about the dangers of aimless online chats.

One way to start is to order the computer game Missing from Webwise. The site’s founder almost lost her 14-year-old sister after she was seduced online and abducted in 1996. In the game, fiction mimics reality where players must attempt to rescue a teen who was seduced online and enticed to live “the good life” with her abductor. The situation is realistic because it’s modeled on the techniques of pedophiles who stalk kids in the real world. Kids should learn to recognize dangerous patterns of online conversations and what to do if they find themselves in such a situation. The game has been endorsed by the Los Angeles Police Department and the Boys and Girls Clubs, among others. At $35 it’s inexpensive, but the life it saves may be your kid’s.

For more information, visit www.missingkids. com. You can perform a search for registered sex offenders who may be near your home or school at, although be warned: The information included on the Web site is very incomplete.