I was investigating crimes against children long before the Internet became part of our daily lives. When I began my career, the Internet was still very much in the infant stages of its development, and its use was limited to the corporate world. But as it has evolved to its present state, the frequency of crimes against children has increased astronomically, and its use is beyond our ability to regulate. No longer is your child safe in the confines of your home under your close supervision. The Internet is the predator’s Trojan horse into what is supposed to be your fortress and sanctuary from the outside world. He is both invisible and insidious as your child willingly invites him into his or her life via cyberspace. I have met child victims who communicated with their offender over the Internet right under their parents’ noses. Because chat room language is cryptic and hard to decipher, it allows the child victim to become involved, and eventually seduced, online by a predator. Many times the child will be lured out of the safety of their home to be sexually offended, or even kidnapped and murdered.
There is no possible way to accurately determine just how many encounters occur between children and predators over the Internet daily throughout this nation. While law enforcement is making a gallant effort to police the dangerous and illegal aspects of cyberspace, it will be ill equipped to even scratch the surface for many years to come. Therefore, parents must shoulder the burden of monitoring their children’s Internet activity. This task has become even more difficult within the past two to three years as cell phones have been manufactured with the technology to access the Internet and to send and receive e-mail and text messages. Nearly every cell phone manufactured today also includes a camera or video and audio recording capabilities. While I understand that parents give their children cell phones in the hopes of keeping them safer, I view a cell phone in the hands of an unsupervised child or young teenager as a grave liability. A predator will use the cell phone to seduce and lure a child away from safety. When parents ask me my opinion on children and cell phones, I tell them to seriously consider not allowing their children to possess one until they are old enough to drive. It is my feeling that children should not be unsupervised until then. At that point, owning a cell phone would be a matter of safety in case they break down or get lost while driving alone. But until then, a cell phone would only increase their child’s risk of crossing the path of a sexual predator. If you feel that your child needs one, I highly encourage you to buy one without Internet capability and that you can limit to give and receive calls only from specific phone numbers. You should monitor your child’s phone activity to make sure he or she did not override your security controls.
If we depend on cell phones to keep our children safe, then we have a false sense of security. Whether we choose to believe it or not, our children will use it as a tool to deceive us and conceal their own mischievous behavior. Children will also resort to using their friends’ computers and cell phones in order to carry out plans they know their parents would never approve of, such as secretly meeting a stranger they met on the Internet. This is why parents must be diligent and tenacious in order to monitor their adolescent’s whereabouts and whom they are with at all times. Let’s face it, they are going to be naughty sheep, and they should never be left unsupervised. It isn’t about trust. It is about immaturity, ignorance, peer pressure, youthful adventure, temptation, and lust. Your young teen is in no capacity to deal with all of these elements of potential disaster on their own, nor should you be willing to allow them to fly solo too early.
I have labeled the children of today as the “Internet Generation” due to their highly advanced computer skills and propensity to seek out and use websites such as YouTube and MySpace. Websites such as these motivate and enable children to promote themselves to the rest of the world and provide personal biographical information for anyone to read. They also allow children to display seductive photographs of themselves and share their sexual fantasies. These websites are feeding grounds for predators, arming them with all of the information they need to choose and pursue multiple potential victims. Jesus told us that in the last days men would acquire great knowledge and become lovers of themselves. He obviously foresaw the future. Satan is brilliantly orchestrating man’s own lustful desires and the technological advances of today into an apocalyptic outcome.
Pre-teens and early teenagers are the most common victims of those who roam cyberspace. These age groups are beginning to experience the development of their own sexuality, so they are curious and open for erotic conversation. The predator is all too ready to satisfy and enhance that child’s curiosity. This leads the child to be secretive and lie to her parents about her newfound friend. I have found that most children will share this kind of activity with at least one close friend. Because it is exciting to them, they feel the need to tell someone about it. This is why I always try to interview the child victim’s friends if they make themselves available. Many times the victim will share things with a close friend about her experiences with the predator that she would not share with any adult, let alone the police.
Like many law enforcement agencies around the nation, the Monroe County Sheriff’s office has dedicated an undercover deputy to play the role of a young teenager on the Internet. Similar to what has been demonstrated on network news television shows, the undercover deputy portrays himself as a twelve- or thirteen-year-old boy or girl seeking attention in order to proactively lure the predators away from other potential victims and into our snare. At times, the deputy may be playing the role on as many as four different computers simultaneously while sitting in his office. He educates himself on matters and language that are pertinent to either a teenage girl or teenage boy in order to appear authentic. Cyberspace predators are already becoming quite familiar with police tactics in this area.
I had the honor of being a member of the selection committee that interviewed candidates and selected the undercover deputies for this program, and I have made it a point to have follow-up discussions with them throughout their assignments. What these deputies have been exposed to and endured as a result of their conversations with these creeps is incredible. It is not uncommon for the undercover deputy to be viewing three or four separate computer monitors at the same time depicting different adult males exposing and stimulating themselves. The predator intentionally have their webcams zoomed in on their groin areas, providing the undercover deputy with a full screen of erect male genitalia. Can you even imagine having to look at three or four computer screens depicting such filth at the same time, and then having to carry on a conversation with each predator as though you were a young teenager enjoying this activity? I think it is safe to assume that most of us would probably vomit, especially with the realization that millions of children are being exposed to this perverted evil every day in the sanctity of our own homes. Undercover deputies have been extremely successful in luring these deviants to a neutral location where they are anticipating meeting a young teenage boy or girl for sex. You can imagine what an unpleasant surprise it is for them when they are met by a welcome committee of plainclothes police officers instead. Upon their arrest, some of these predators are found to be in possession of items such as rope, duct tape, and sexual devices. I credit these deputies for the program’s success and for possessing incredible intestinal fortitude in such a challenging assignment.
For me, the Internet has added a new dimension of speculation regarding what leads a man to possess images of children being molested or to fantasize about molesting young children. A recent case in the Rochester area serves as a perfect example of this issue. A doctor who was serving as the Director of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at a prestigious hospital was arrested and subsequently pled guilty for the possession of hundreds of child porn images on his computer. This man was considered to be both a leader and mentor in a highly esteemed, honorable profession. I was not involved in the case, nor did I have an opportunity to speak with the doctor. Had I had the opportunity, these are some of the questions for which I would have liked answers: What led a highly educated, experienced, and recognized doctor to amass child pornography? Did he have a sexual attraction to children from the time he was a young man? If so, did that attraction in some perverted way influence him to become a pediatrician? Or, did his appetite for erotica and pornography place him on that slippery slope of iniquity and filth that eventually lured him into child porn sites? In other words, did he evolve into a pedophile as a result of his addiction to Internet porn, or had he always carried the dark secret of being sexually attracted to young children deep inside him, and the Internet porn sites simply cultivated this ugly sin?
Based on my professional experience, the Internet has become one of Satan’s most significant weapons against man’s spiritual health. The Internet can be the Interstate of Iniquity, the Freeway of Filth, and the Highway to Hell if a man allows himself to travel into the sexually perverted areas of cyberspace. Once a man gets hooked on pornography, it is like being hooked on crack: he will constantly try to enhance his stimulation by increasing the shock value of the pornographic material he is viewing. This is a dangerous existence on a very slippery and treacherous slope. It starts out with the standard pornography of naked women and men and women having sex. In time, the viewer needs something more graphic in nature for the same thrill effect, so he will move on to sexual sadism and material that is more violent. When that loses its luster, he may even move on to homosexual material. I truly believe that when a man is at this phase, he unwittingly invites a demon to take over his life through the gateway of his lust. Eventually, his appetite becomes insatiable. He then moves on to “barely legal” teenager pornography, and at length he lands in the full-blown child pornography sites.
I have interviewed child predators who claimed they were spawned as a result of their addiction to Internet pornography. Some of the predators I have interrogated over the years have told me that when they began viewing child pornography, they knew deep down in their heart that what they were doing was very wrong and against everything in which they believed; but they had lost control of their lust at that point and were unable to stop. It should be noted that when a man is viewing any type of adult porn websites, he is constantly being attacked by countless pop-ups that come across his screen, attempting to lure him to a different porn site. Some of these pop-ups are for child porn sites. Once Satan knows you’re in the ball park, he invites you to the dugout and then eventually pulls you into his clubhouse. (from chapter 14, Seducers Among Our Children, Lighthouse Trails, 2012, Patrick Crough)
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the Devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)