CyberWire Dispatch// Copyright (c) 1997 // October 29, 1997 //
Jacking in from the "Castrate the Bastards" Port:
Washington -- Sexual abuse of children shreds the very fabric our moral fiber. Pedophiles are a reality we'd rather not think about. Think again. Hard. These twisted predators have upped the ante in their perverted quest by taking the wonderful discovery and entertainment value that is embodied by the Internet and are using it to advance their own diabolical end.
In the U.S. there have been has been a high profile story of a 15-year-old New Jersey boy that sexually molested and killed an 11-year-old who was going door-to-door selling candy. The story was quickly dubbed an "Internet crime" although there was absolutely no direct link between the crime and the computer.
How did the mainstream media make this brain dead leap of "objective" reporting? All too easily as it turns out. The teenage killer was later found linked to a convicted pedophile whom he willfully traveled to New York to met for sex. Yet because the 15-year-old met his abuser online and also was found to have created his own home page on the Web, the popular press dubbed the kid the "cyber-psycho."
Forget that the computer was incidental in the case. It's not at all clear that the 15-year-old, a troubled youth as characterized by his own parents, wouldn't have sought out such trouble on his own, without the aid of the computer. Yet cases of child sexual abuse, even with a cursory link to the Internet, keep the issue of online predators on the national stage.
What can parents do? Ratchet up what we've always done: educate our kids. We've long warned our kids about "stranger danger." Public parks, shopping malls and even the local church aren't safe havens anymore. Now we need to educate our children about the potential for danger when they venture online just as we warn them about strangers in the park. Yes it's an uncomfortable task. But no one said parenting was all trips to Disneyland and Steven Spielberg movies.
What can we do? Be realistic; bad stuff happens, even online. Although the Internet isn't the criminal, it does allow sexual predators to extend their hunt in ways never before possible. That's why parents can't simply turn their kids loose on the computer without guidance and continued involvement. If little Johnny begins to blow off his friends and his weekends in favor of spending all his spare time in front of the computer be concerned. You might have a budding Bill Gates; you might have a nightmare in the making. Find out what your kid is doing on the computer; make it a family activity.
Can we at least stop convicted sex offenders from using the computer? No, it makes no sense. Would we then have to have a five day waiting period before buying computers and modems so a criminal background check could be made? Of course not. After all, we don't forbid these dirtballs from entering parks or shopping malls.
We can push for harsher penalties for sex offenders. A bill now in the Senate, S. 900, the "Child Exploitation Sentencing Enhancement Act," is aimed at beefing up the penalties for those who use a computer to commit crimes of sexual abuse or exploitation against children. Jail time is doubled in some cases, up to 15 years. That's a start, not a solution. If I were king, I'd execute them and let the victim's parents pull the switch. Too harsh? Let's compromise: extended jail time and castration.
The Internet is no different than the world around us, full of the good, the bad and the ugly. But it also mirrors all that is good, wondrous and entertaining in our daily lives. The Internet isn't a VCR; in today's world, you can't get away with not knowing how it works. Don't waste another day in your ignorance; your children can't afford your apathy.