Teenagers hang out at malls, chat on the phone, text their friends the latest news on their cell phone, and surf the web. Some teens create a MySpace.com or Face Book page, which allows them yet another way to socialize with peers. Many teens also work a part-time job to make extra spending money. Then there are the web-cam teens, or teens that have a web cam. Most initially got the web cam to talk with their friends, but learned quickly it was an easy way to make fast money.
Web cam teens are teenagers who undress or perform solo sex acts in front of their web cam. They perform for countless people in chat rooms and even around the world, for a price. The price of taking a shirt off and sitting in front of the web cam is easy money compared to working 8 hours a night at a fast food restaurant or retail shop.
Teenagers with a website like MySpace or Face Book are more likely to receive a sexually explicit online solicitation. Sometimes it is as simple as an inappropriate email. Then it may escalate from there to dirty sex talk in an Instant Message or IM initiated by a lurker, or someone who has been watching what the teen says or does in a chat room for several hours or even days or weeks. Soon the magic question pops up, directed at the teen, would you like to earn some easy money?
What teenager does not want to earn fast spending money? At first, the teen may be leery and cautious, pulling back as the warning bells start to ring in his or her head. Yet, when the person only wants to watch through a web cam, the teen wonders what can it hurt. That is when money talks and the teen will finally agree to sit in front of the web cam without his or her shirt on for a few dollars. A smooth operator will show the teen how to set up a PayPal account to do online transactions, allowing more people to pay the teen for his or her voyeuristic services.
Each of the three websites PayPal, MySpace and Face Book have age restrictions that are suppose to prevent teens from joining before a certain age, yet like most free sites there is no way to verify every transaction. PayPal, MySpace, Face Book and most free sites know their system is not fool proof and that there are in fact underage teens on their site right now, yet how can they guarantee each person is who and how old they say they are?
Most teens that perform for the web cam live in middle or upper class homes, are above average students, and have an active parent involved in their life. One of the main reasons teens, can hide this profession from their family is they consistently surf the World Wide Web behind closed bedroom doors. Parents with good kids believe their children are safe at home tucked into their rooms at night, so they are naive and they wear blinders and allow teens to use the internet in the privacy of their own rooms. After all how much trouble could a teenager get into at home with mom or dad in the next room?
Pedophiles know parents trust their child online alone, and count on parents being naive. That is how a pedophile enters your home, without ever having to knock on the front door. Any night of the week a pedophile maybe grooming your child or teen for a meeting online or in person while you are right there watching in a false sense of security.
A friends daughter was verbally agreeing to do things online in IM that she did not realize were sexually related. Although she felt uncomfortable while agreeing to do the things the man in IM asked of her, she had been talking with him for several months and felt he was her friend. After all he seemed to understand her emotional needs better than her parents who would not let her hang out at the mall with all the other kids.
Alert parents discovered the IMís from the man online, and in an effort to explain exactly what the man was asking her to do the parents acted out the IMís. Seeing her parents acting out sexual acts made her realize the man she was talking to in cyberspace had none of her best interests in mind. In fact he only had one thing on his mind, and that one thing was not appropriate to be asking a teenager to do.
There is software one can download to prevent children or teens from accessing adult sites. The only problem with the software is the teens here were all in teen chat rooms invaded by pedophiles lurking in the dark to find their next victim, so the software would essentially be useless.
Check out your ISP (internet service providers) parental safety controls. AOL and some of the others can prevent IMís from being sent to teens unless approved in advance on a safe list created by mom or dad. There are also key logger programs which record EVERY website, IM, and computer move a person makes online. The key logger program is how our friends found his daughterís inappropriate IMís.
A parentís best bet for protecting a child from online sexual solicitation is to move the computer out in the open where a parent can monitor what is coming across the computer screen as it happens. Educating our teens and children about what is appropriate and what is not appropriate online is the next best defense against a lurking pedophile.
Teach kids to sign off if they feel uncomfortable by what they see or are being asked to do online. Next he or she should immediately go tell a grown-up what happened and if possible as much information as possible should be written down and then sent to the Cybertip line at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). If possible report the screen name and any inappropriate behavior to the Internet Service Provider, be sure to include any inappropriate emails along with your complaint.
Keeping teens safe online is no different than keeping them safe at home. Talk to your kids; tell them what is out there in cyberspace, after all you would not send your child into a BIG city alone at night without first instilling some survivor and safety information. The World Wide Web is no different than a Big city, other than it is one that is accessible inside almost every home. Be aware of who you invite into your home via the WWW and know when to say Hasta La Vista Baby and sign off.