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How Dangerous is Online Chat for Kids?

jamie posted more than 12 years ago | from the i-m-me dept.

United States 350

The House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet held a hearing in my home town yesterday: "Chatting On-Line: A Dangerous Proposition for Children." Six witnesses came to Kalamazoo, Michigan and described the perils of on-line chat to Rep. Fred Upton (R-Michigan) and Rep. Charles Bass (R-New Hampshire). The most surprising and welcome news of the afternoon was that, despite the alarmist title, there was not a panicked call for additional legislation.

The hearing launched with Congressman Upton touting his internet record -- notably the .kids domain, now .kids.us. Personally, I like the idea of .kids.us, though some disagree.

The witnesses were Katie Tarbox, who in 1995, at age 13, had been inadequately briefed on the "rules of the net" and disasterously agreed to meet a child predator she'd chatted with online; two local law enforcement personnel, John Karraker and Jim Gregart; Ruben Rodriguez, the Director of the Exploited Child Unit for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children; Caroline Curtin, the Director of Children's Policy for AOL; and Kathleen Tucker, the Director of Curriculum Development for I-Safe America.

Everyone was concerned about keeping children safe online. It goes without saying that this is a desirable goal, as long as it's done in accordance with the Constitution and doesn't interfere with everyone else's legal use of the internet.

The problem is a serious one. Real kids are being lured into dangerous relationships over the internet; charges were filed in one more case here in Kalamazoo County just last week.

The preferred pickup method for child molesters nowadays is the internet: chat, instant-messaging, and email. The old tricks of "would you like some candy?" and "your parents were in an accident, I'll drive you to the hospital" -- those are yesterday's news. Kids growing up now need to be aware of different dangers, ones involving formation of long-term relationships, questions about online identity, and trust.

I wasn't able to find any reliable statistics on how often children are victimized using the internet. The best numbers I found were from a phone survey of 1,501 children, ages 10 to 17, who used the internet regularly. Of them, 19% had "received an unwanted sexual solicitation" (imprecisely defined) but only 3% had been solicited with "attempts or requests for offline contact" or actual offline contact.

And precisely 0 of the 1,501 children said they had been sexually contacted or assaulted due to online solicitations. This seems significant to me, given that 21% of all children -- statistically, hundreds of the children in the phone survey -- are sexually abused (by some definition of the term) before age 18. Unfortunately, 0 is not a number that extrapolates well to estimate how many of the United States's 70 million children will be physically victimized with help from the internet. But if I understand the numbers, it seems the internet is not the most likely source of danger.

A study called JOVIS is in the works and should provide some concrete numbers. According to Mr. Rodriguez, we can expect data from it in four to five months.

In any case, the message our lawmakers heard yesterday was not that we need more laws.

All six witnesses said, using almost the same words, that there is no substitute for parental involvement. Three called for more money and training for law enforcement, to give existing laws teeth. It sounds like law enforcement, especially at the state and local level, is still coming up to speed on this issue. And Ms. Curtin, for AOL, emphasized that ISPs were already taking steps, and suggested patience to allow them to develop an industry standard.

The testimony and discussion was so removed from proposing new legislation, in fact, that Rep. Bass seemed a little bored and annoyed. He had to remind everyone twice that he and his colleague were lawmakers: "As a member of Congress, I would like to hear what recommendations you have for what we might do -- I haven't heard anything about that so far. ... If I could reiterate: we make policy. This is a very interesting problem, but precisely what suggestions would you have for us as policymakers? If you could draft the bill, what would it say?"

Proposals were hesitant. Our local prosecutor suggested mandated inclusion of a CD with every new computer sale, which would explain how to keep children safe online. I'm not sure why existing explanations (here's one) are insufficient; why not just link? And Kathleen Tucker of I-Safe suggested standardizing on "digital certificates," client-side certs issued by an authority which confirms your identity using proof ranging from photo ID up to DNA (!) -- thus allowing children to verify that screen name BritneyRulez333 does not actually belong to a 45-year-old man.

That excepted, Ms. Tucker's testimony was refreshingly sound. She squarely faced the problem of child predators, and quoted Judith Krug of the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom: children "need to be taught the skills to cope in the virtual world just as they are taught skills to cope in the physical world."

Parents aren't there to watch over kids every minute. Just as they learn to cross the street without holding an adult's hand, so they need to learn how to wander the internet safely. "The value of empowering our children, through education," she concluded, "with the knowledge and critical-thinking skills that they need to be able to independently assess the every-day situations they will encounter while online cannot be overstressed... Education and empowerment are key."

In my opinion, that's exactly right.

But I wonder how effectively government will be able to help alleviate the problem. Knowledge is key, but kids are, as usual, embracing and understanding change, while bored Congressmen sit behind tables and listen to prepared speeches. Last week, I contacted three students, ages 14 to 17, and asked them about their experiences chatting online.

What they thought, and what they reported their friends thought, was pretty savvy. They understand the dangers, are well aware of the internet's advantages, and know how to stay safe. One student reported:

If kids know not to give out their personal information, and what could happen if they do, then there is really no danger. I would feel like I was missing out on a lot if I didn't have the opportunities to communicate online. It gives me a chance to stay in touch with my current friends, make new friends, meet interesting people, and find a group where I feel like I belong.

Another student reported:

I chat to other people almost every night, or whenever I get the chance to. I do not see chatting on-line as being dangerous, or otherwise harmful. Sure you always hear those stories about 12 year old girls chatting with 45 year old men, but I see online chatting as a way for people with similar interests to discuss and debate interesting topics. ...I strongly believe that if you chat online with people that you do not know personally, you should figure out what this person is really like, and if you can trust them or not.

Finally, I traded several emails with one girl who had chatted online extensively for years, and has met in person "at least 10 or so" other kids whom she first found on AOL -- including a meeting with some boys from another state.

This might seem like a recipe for disaster. But, not only was her protocol for establishing trust detailed and thorough -- paranoid even -- but she readily explained to me her reasoning for each step along the way. She's a poster child for "education and empowerment." And I doubt she's unique:

How did I know to be careful about creeps on the internet? It would be hard not to know nowadays. With an Oprah special about it practically every week, and news documentaries and polls, the facts are pretty much right out there for you. It's like taking candy from a stranger, it's common sense I guess... The types who would fall prey to an online creep would just as easily be a victim to a creep in real life... If the topic of internet chat comes up in school, teachers will almost always preach about safety and weirdos and such. So pretty much the topic of internet safety is inescapable -- it just depends on how well you listen to it.

I hope that's true for every young person.

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far too much to read (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517028)


you could of summarised for us instead of paragraphs of meaningless dribble

who'd rape a chat-kiddie ? (-1)

Adolf Hitroll (562418) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517137)

Most american children are obese, especially the ones that spend their time chatting (and eating pop-corn) instead of doing some sport...
But well, yes : the more they'll chat, the fatter they'll become and when the next wtc will collapse it'll be only because of their weights.

Some like them Tubby... (-1)

DonkeyHote (521235) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517233)

IAgreeWithThisPost!

Re:who'd rape a chat-kiddie ? (1)

VEGx (576738) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517315)

Indeed. However, I think that Americans are nuts to start with so I don't expect any rational behavior from their part. I think Americans should be banned from chats!!!! They could corrupt us!

only danger (5, Funny)

tezzery (549213) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517037)

the only danger of kids chatting on irc is them becoming script kiddies

Re:only danger (-1)

IAgreeWithThisPost (550896) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517072)

and linux geeks. all script kiddies use linux after all, then they spend half their school day on slashdot taking themselves way too seriously.

NO WAY! (-1)

DonkeyHote (521235) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517168)

Mac-in-tosh is the operating system of the l33t h4x04 generation, everyone knows that!

Re:only danger (5, Funny)

gazbo (517111) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517180)

Nope, kids are definitely in danger if I'm online and horny.

Re:only danger (3, Interesting)

JThaddeus (531998) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517313)

From what I see, the biggest danger my kids face from chatting is the time it takes away from their school work. Come on, parents! You mean you've never told your kids to beware of strangers? My kids get a lot from online and email chat--not just MSN or Yahoo but gaming and history groups. I don't mind a bit having to okay my kid into a new group but I shouldn't have to stand-by to approve each session.

I'd also advise lawmakers to look to what the kids do to lead on adults. It doesn't take long on Yahoo! or GeoCities to find underaged kids [geocities.com] selling themselves.

Coincidence (1, Offtopic)

Ooblek (544753) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517043)

Is it just a coincidence that Kalamazoo rhymes with Captain Kangaroo?

What, did they meet at the Dairy Queen that also serves as the town hall? Kalamazoo sure is a bustling place where all sorts of people have easy access to show up and voice their opinions.

Is Elvis involved? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517065)

It was at a Kalamazoo burger king that the Risen Elvis was first sighted back in the late 1980s.

Re:Coincidence (1)

Nutello (132201) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517217)

It seems I can't explain
The way I feel about you
You just don't understand
You are from Kalamazoo...

(Frank Zappa, "Jumbo go away", 1981)

Re:Coincidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517228)

Kalamazoo is actually a fair sized city. Trust me, I've been in *far* worse places.

Re:Coincidence (2)

-tji (139690) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517363)

Kalamazoo is not far from the home of Slashdot..

And it dwarfs Slashdotville (Holland, MI) in size and enlightenment. Holland is a center for the ultra-conservative, ultra-religious types.

jESUS was a Monkey!! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517045)

Lets meet for coffee.

Internet is a dangerous place (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517046)

Internet is a dangerous place -- at least as long as insane bitches like Ann Coulter are around.

"We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them all to Christianity"

What a postergirl for conservatism and Christianity!

Coulter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517102)

Her unfunny joke is more than made up by her frequent and usual sensible and truly progressive writings and speech.

Re:Coulter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517136)

Uh, isn't a "progressive conservative" kind of an oxymoron?

Most conservatives I know cherish the idea of maintaining the status quo instead of being truly progressive and advocating equal human rights to the gay people, for instance.

How dangerous is Online Katz for Kids? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517049)

As noted on the Smithsonian Institution's site [si.edu] , the first official American flag had thirteen stars and thirteen stripes, each representing one of the thirteen original states.
The flag icon for Slashdot's 'United States' section is missing its first stripe - the stripe that represents Delaware, the first state admitted to the Union. While a simple oversight could be forgiven, it should be known from here on out that Slashdot is in fact aware of the missing stripe, and even worse, refuses to do anything about it! [sf.net]

This vulgar flag desecration and rabid anti-Delawarism must be put to a stop. Let the Slashdot crew know that we will not accept a knowingly mutilated flag or the insinuation that Delawarians deserve to be cut out of the union. I ask you, what has Delaware done to deserve this insolence, this wanton disregard, this bigotry?

This intentional disregard of a vital national symbol is unpatriotic. Why, the flippant remarks CmdrTaco made about our flag border on terrorism! I urge you to join the protest in each 'United States' story. Sacrifice your karma for your country by pointing out this injustice. Let's all work together to get our flag back. Can you give your country any less?

Down With Katz (-1)

DonkeyHote (521235) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517083)

Kill Whitey!

Re:How dangerous is Online Katz for Kids? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517107)

Burn the flag - it's nothing but a piece of fabric.

It's already the 21st century, for chrissake!

You can burn Ann Coulter too, while you're at it.

hmmm.... (1)

yup2000 (182755) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517053)

>This event will not be webcast.
>
>The free Real Player basic is required in order to
>connect to this broadcast.

on the street where you live (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517054)

odds are, there's more preverts online, than in your neighborhood. so, you might consider being at least as cautious about your kids online activity as you are about their activity outside your home/on the block.

Re:on the street where you live (1)

CrazyDuke (529195) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517239)

Please repeat after me:
"Perverts are not pedophiles."

Just because someone has some kinky sexual tastes doesn't mean they are going to rape you or your kids.

I know of more convicted and released pedophiles in my hometown that I do of any on IRC. And I am a regular in channel of perverts. The worst danger I've found on IRC is illustrated by the following: There is a debate over whether any of the people in #lesbians actually are.

The only danger from online chatting... (0, Offtopic)

PepsiProgrammer (545828) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517055)

Is opening your computer to huge microsoft security holes.

Re:The only danger from online chatting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517301)

They say we Big Brother let us protect you from the Big Bad Internet seems there was a king named George at one time who did the same thing in the name of protecting his people of course Ben Franklin, George Washington, Samuel Adams, and Thomas Jefferson told him to go to hell. Parents are responsible for their children not Government. Politicians in bed with MickeySoft lets say this so we can get that, if we control it we can tax it, using the .Net framework. If you are stupid enough to buy this load of shit that the internet is a really bad place do not go there then you are a fucking idiot. The internet is allowing the world to open up and communicate and that scares the shit out of governments because once people begin to communicate they will see how much we the government have been screwing them all these years with lies and deception saying that is an evil country do not go there you will be sorry you did better watch out what a load of bullshit. People are people everywhere and politicians are politicians everywhere do you understand now and will you free your mind not to be minipulated by some bullshit company or corrupt politician padding his back pocket for a vote.

my thoughts (4, Insightful)

MooseGuy529 (578473) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517060)

Well I think that meeting people from online chat is still somewhat dangerous, but some people are over-paranoid; some people say that you shouldn't tell people your email address or state without permission from a parent--yeah, like they'll know who Tom in Massachusetts (me) is out of tons of people.

Tom

Re:my thoughts (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517145)

THOMAS T TUTTLE
75 LOWELL AVE
NEWTON MA 02460
(617)928-0163

THOMAS R TUTTLE
50 BAILEY RD
WATERTOWN MA 02472
(617)923-9233

THOMAS TUTTLE
4 PAKANOKET LN
NANTUCKET MA 02554
(508)325-0265

TOM D TUTTLE
ORLEANS MA 02653
(508)255-1141

Church is more dangerous than chat (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517061)

At least online they don't stand a chance of having some priest mouthfuck them

Church is more dangerous than chat - MOD PARENT UP (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517198)

how is this a troll? Just look at the news and you'll see it's ontopic and true!

45 year old men ? (1)

yuri82 (236251) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517064)

Sure you always hear those stories about 12 year old girls chatting with 45 year old men, but I see online chatting as a way for people with similar interests to discuss and debate interesting topics.

So 12 yeard old girls and 45 yeard old men have similar interests? Right....

Re:45 year old men ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517089)

You don't think a 45 year old man can fake it to get what's he's interested in?

Re:45 year old men ? (1)

wo1verin3 (473094) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517141)

Of Course They Can.....
Women of all ages fake it all the time.

Did you read before you copied? (2, Informative)

VEGx (576738) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517157)

Sometimes it's better to read before you copy and paste what ever happens on your way. If you carefully read the sentence you have pasted: the second part talks about PEOPLE in general. Contrast this with the first part that talks about DISTURBING PERVERSION. Learn to read before you start shouting. Thanx

Re:45 year old men ? (2, Funny)

keep_it_simple_stupi (562690) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517292)

Yeah except that usually the 12 year old girl is some other 45 year old guy... Gross.

Dangerous (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517066)

It's as dangerous as letting kids talk to strangers anytime. Doesn't matter if there's a computer between them. You may think since there's distance, it's better, but the false sense of security makes it just as bad, possibly worse.

Most parents wouldn't let 8 year old tommy wander around and talk to any people he finds, so why do they let him do that online? Strangers are strangers no matter where you meet them.

Parents, watch your kids (and talk to them), and don't expect the government or someone else to do your job.

To-Do List for Parents (5, Insightful)

cOdEgUru (181536) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517069)

(1) Take Interest in your kids dammit. No matter how important your work is, family always come first. Get your friggin priorities straight.

(2) Ask yourself whether your kid needs a computer that soon. And why. Books might be better.

(3) Take the computer to the living room and out of the kids bedrooms. Keep a watch over what they do.

(4) Be frank with them. Tell them what worries you and what they should not be doing. Take action. Dont be passive.

To-Do List for Trolls (-1)

DonkeyHote (521235) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517114)

(1) Find silly janitor story that deserves to be trolled.

(2) Post related topic that will spark flames among the slashbot loyalists

(3) Enjoy ensuing flamewar, bring hotdogs

(4) Repeat steaps 1 - 3

Re:To-Do List for Microsoft users (-1, Offtopic)

Anti-Microsoft Troll (577475) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517247)

1. Reboot.

2. Re-authenticate Windows XP.

3. Install new memory to accommodate additional registry entries resulting from Step 2.

4. Re-authenticate Windows XP after program detects new memory and concludes it is now on a different computer.

5. Crash computer by pressing spacebar or by moving the mouse to the left.

6. Repeat.

Re:To-Do List for Parents (1)

jthomas2 (102083) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517282)

Myself I believe in the theory of benign neglect. Let your kids run amock, just give them the moral foundation so that they won't go too far. And for god's sake, bruise some recklessness into them!

-Jay Thomas

http://www.uiuc.edu/~jthomas2 [uiuc.edu]

Do we see a pattern here? (1)

mochan_s (536939) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517075)

OK, there was a story on how the internet is "Fueling Hatred and Misunderstanding". Now, online chats are dangerous for kids.

Stories on pedophiles, Islamic extremists on the internet ... what is the Slashdot agenda here?

Re:Do we see a pattern here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517149)

>>Stories on pedophiles, Islamic extremists on the internet ... what is the Slashdot agenda here?

To get you all riled up, generate lots of responses. It would be easier if they could just post "everything you like is bad, you are a minority that deserves persecution", but then that would just be trolling.

I don't know, *do* we? (1)

Mahrin Skel (543633) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517307)

7 years or so ago, I was arguing with the other posters in net.admin.net-abuse.misc that if we didn't face up to the reality of child pronography on the internet, the congresscritters were going to stomp all over us in order to "save the children". Back then, kiddie porn was being freely and openly traded via the alt.binaries.* groups, with several groups specifically for that kind of material.

However, everyone's "official" viewpoint was "Kiddie porn? I don't see any kiddie porn around here." There was this belief that if we never admitted it was there, it would never be a problem. A few years later, we got the CDA as a result (and yes, the cause and effect chain is pretty direct).

Child predators actually finding a victim through the internet is extremely rare (there have been no more than a few dozen cases in the last decade, even though there are millions of kids online). It's also a perfect story for TV news, and is guaranteed to stick in the memory of people who hear it and don't know a lot about the internet.

You want to know my own personal worst-case PR scenario? Some young kid who plays my game meets up with their Guildmates from the game, and gets raped. For 95%+ of the people in the country, it would be the first time they ever heard of online games. Statistics don't mean a damned thing when it comes to the instincts of parents.

--Dave Rickey

From Modern Humorist (3, Funny)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517077)

Hey Cassidy!!! Happy 13th b-day!! you don?t know me, but i am a 13 yr old girl who wants to be your PEN PAL!!! i checked out ur user profil on AOL. my name is brittney & i just turned 13 and want to talk to other 13 yr olds about stuff like NSYNC (the best!), math homework (yuk) and how you shower togethe with your little friends after gym class and what they look like! it?s okay to talk to me about ANYTHING ?cause I?m just a 13 yr old girl like you!! Write back soon!!! p.s. do u have a favorite pair of panties rite back soon ok

Re:From Modern Humorist (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517088)

but i am a 13 yr old girl who wants to be your PEN PAL!!!

Darling, it's PENIS PAL - not PEN PAL... but sure, I'll be your PENIS PAL any day. Where do you live?

PENIS PAL account (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517153)

Goddammit! That's a great account name.

Does someone already have a PENIS_PAL account on Slashdot?! I couldn't register it.

Re:From Modern Humorist (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517197)

Hey brittney, I'm just like you, only I don't have a favourite pair of panties 'cause I don't wear any! We should get together soon ;-)

hugs 'n' kisses, Cassidy

AGENT1: Think he bought it?

AGENT2: We'll see. Be sure to compare IP's on on all his responses.

Re:From Modern Humorist (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517281)

...and in reality they are both 45 year old men. :}

but who will i get my viruses from now ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517079)


If i can't have kids send them to me in IRC chatrooms with the name d4rkF0x and .exe's called "download_free_mp3.exe"

I've been using personals and IRC for a long time. (1, Flamebait)

PrimeWaveZ (513534) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517086)

Since I was 13 or so, and the only possible way to get screwed over by predators online is to be a complete MORON! I mean, do these idiots ride the short bus to school? I've met probably 10 people outside of the IRC channel meets I've been to, and while some of them have been real @ssholes, none of them have been Lester the Molestor. Stop being stupid, people!

Re:I've been using personals and IRC for a long ti (2, Interesting)

Theodore Logan (139352) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517176)

[T]he only possible way to get screwed over by predators online is to be a complete MORON! [...] I've met probably 10 people outside of the IRC channel meets I've been to, and while some of them have been real @ssholes, none of them have been Lester the Molestor. Stop being stupid, people!

Given these not totally unreasonable premises:

1) You do, on occasion, meet some of those you chat with and find interesting in real life
2) Lester the Molestor can fake being interesting

it's not very easy to see how you could avoid meeting him even though you are not "a complete MORON."

Not that this was anything but a shameless troll anyway, but I'm bored.

Re:I've been using personals and IRC for a long ti (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517226)

I too have been using IRC for many years (10) since I was about 14/15. I can see the dangers as not only meeting up with Lester, but just chatting to him can corupt your morals and idles turning your children into the freek that I have become.

I use IRC regularly as a way to keep intouch with friends, the channels I hang out in are NOT the places that talk about N'Synch (we prefare music to that sh*t) we general talk about adult subjects or let loose with our ramptly debaurched sense of humour.

I won't be allowing my kids to use chat until I know that they would be able to use it responably. I would hope that my kids have enough love and support from their family that they don't feel the need to indulge in such non-social activities.

Online discussions and kids (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517351)

I've also been online since I was very young, around 14. I've trolled the boards since I was about 17. Now, I can't seem to stop trolling the boards. I want to stop trolling the boards, but I just can't.

I troll K5, /., Adequacy.org and a host of other well known sites.

I've always been shy, but trolling the boards seems to have made me at least somewhat less shy than I was before. I have never made love to a woman, but I have made love to a mare. Wait! Don't moderate me down! Just listen!

At first we just ate dinner together. (I took my dinner out there, and gave her a few carrots and some feed. Then things got more serious and I ended up petting and kissing her. Then I stood on a bucket and made love to her.

Trolling the boards can have upsides and downsides.

Preventative Measures (1)

TuxLuvr (578149) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517092)

It's relatively easy to protect children from sickos in chat rooms,at least on one's home PC: Net Nanny [netnanny.com] has a fairly comprehensive list of moderated chats for kids; the newest version of Internet Explorer [microsoft.com] has a great deal of child protection functionality built in.

It's a shame that so much of our children's web access is unsupervised though; nothing takes the place of mindful parenting!

Re:Preventative Measures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517181)

While I have to agree that responsible parenting is the key to protecting children from pervs, I wish more software manufacturers would follow the lead set by M$FT and Netnanny; perhaps child-protection protocols could be incorporated into IPV6? ; - )

Re:Preventative Measures (1)

TuxLuvr (578149) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517222)

LOL yeah.....

I'll start drafting the RFC!

Re:Preventative Measures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517232)

the newest version of Internet Explorer has a great deal of child protection functionality built in.

Along with about 15000 security holes that allow Chester Molester and the Pedophilia Five to cornhole your children nine ways from Sunday.

Microsoft products are absolute crap. I wouldn't trust my child with the cardbord box Windows came in, let alone a computer system with any Microsoft products installed.

My G4 running OS X works perfectly well for me. And now that I have konqueror running on it, along with a double-redundant firewall setup to prevent any unauthorized access, I feel perfectly fine letting my children onto IRC, AIM, or whatever. They have learned to be wary of anything you can't see inside. They've seen the Konqueror code, they've seen their friends use their IM names. Anything else isn't worth trusting.

Re:Preventative Measures (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517268)

Microsoft products are absolute crap.

It seems to be an Unwritten Law that when Linux/Mac zealots don't have a leg to stand on, they just start bashing Micro-Soft and that somehow makes everything ok.

GROW UP!

Re:Preventative Measures (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517365)

Linux/Mac zealots

Wow, your head is so far up your ass you can probably just about see again. OS X is BSD based. In no way am I a Linux zealot. BSD is much better than Linux...

  • Better TCP stack
  • DIRECT descendant from the original Unix
  • Fewer security holes than Linux
  • Better consisency than the Linux kernel
  • Better change/upgrade control than any Linux distribution
  • Less restrictive licensing
Oh, and as far as MS bashing goes, MS deserves every bash they get. They produce sloppy bloated code that works about as well as a Diesel powered vehicle in the Arctic. Your blind support of their monolithic monopolistic practices just shows that you, along with many other troglydites out there, are a brainwashed sheep just waiting to be slaughtered in the abbitoir of commercialism!

Nasty stuff happens... (5, Interesting)

HiQ (159108) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517098)

In my country (the Netherlands) there was a report on tv by a journalist who followed up on a story by a 14 year old kid. This kid was being 'harassed' in a chatbox by an older man who kept trying to meet with this kid. The parents tried to stop this by going to the police, but they could do nothing about it because up till then nothing unlawful happened.
The journalist spoke with the parents and together they let the boy make an appointment. When the time was there not the boy stepped in this man's car, but the (famous) reporter. The man turned out to be a teacher and I believe trainer of a boys football team. This will surely wreck his career and personal life, in spite of the fact that nothing really happened.
But the important part is that *if* the boy had not spoke with his parents about this, then what would have happened if he did make an appointment. Surely this sort of thing happens all the time in chatboxes.

Re:Nasty stuff happens... (2)

raistlinne (13725) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517171)

Surely this sort of thing happens all the time in chatboxes.

Why is this so sure? I don't mean to come out one way or another on this issue, but extrapolating from one case seems to be a pretty bad method.

Moreover, how many child abusers do you think that there are in society? Do you really think that there are enough that the average child is in great danger the moment that they can communicate with someone? If so, if there really are that many child molestors, then what percentage of the population do they make up?

You see, if child moslestors make up 50% of the population or so, then it's really time to worry as fairly soon child molestation is going to become legal.

Extrapolation is a dangerous thing. Always be wary of it.

Re:Nasty stuff happens... (1)

TheNecromancer (179644) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517289)

Moreover, how many child abusers do you think that there are in society? Do you really think that there are enough that the average child is in great danger the moment that they can communicate with someone? If so, if there really are that many child molestors, then what percentage of the population do they make up?

You see, if child moslestors make up 50% of the population or so, then it's really time to worry as fairly soon child molestation is going to become legal.


This is ridiculous. You can't ignore the problem simply because the percentage of child molesters in society is below a certain percent! Would you ignore the problem of people committing murder, just because less than 50% of the population have committed murder? I think not!

Wake up and face the music, pal! The point is that there is great potential for children to be lured into a harmful situation in the Internet chat areas. True, it doesn't happen all the time, but it does happen, and it needs to be addressed (by the parents informing their children adequately).

Re:Nasty stuff happens... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517230)

Oh yeah, happens all the time.

Happened to me last week, even. No big deal. In fact it happened twice.

This comment was brought to you by the letters O and M and G.

Stranger Danger (1)

dingo (91227) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517122)

I think the best course of action is to expand existing education of children where we tell them not to accept candy from a stranger and not to get into cars with anyone they dont know to include the internet. Equiping the children to identify these people themselves is the only way we can be sure they are safe, they cannot be supervised 24-7.

Re:Stranger Danger (3, Interesting)

ThePurpleBuffalo (111594) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517250)

I think the best course of action is to expand existing education of children where we tell them not to accept candy from a stranger and not to get into cars with anyone they dont know to include the internet.

I agree that education is often a good solution, but it may be difficult as the children can not see that the bad guy is actually 45. For all they know, the bad guy is another 12 year old just like them. Most children are not suspicious and jaded like adults.

Equiping the children to identify these people themselves is the only way we can be sure they are safe, they cannot be supervised 24-7.

Will kids use it? How will it be enforced? Could they be faked? Will kids know why they should use it? Can you trust content comming from a potentially malicious user?

Secondly, no, kids probably can't be supervised 24-7, but the parents are still responsible for their kids 24-7. It was the decision of the parents to have the kids, not the other way around. It's about time that parents started taking responsibility.

Realistically, I see no easy solution. If anyone has kids that are actively using the net, then the parents should know what they're getting up to.

Perhaps it's not just the children who need to be educated... perhaps it's parents as well.

Beware TPB

it IS Dangerous!!! (5, Funny)

dr_labrat (15478) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517142)

My son was chatting online and a piano fell on him...

Danger same offline and online (1)

derfla8 (195731) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517164)

Any child should be wary of talking to strangers. Parents do a good job of educating kids on the dangers of talking to strangers, before they put their kids online they just need to re-iterate that it is dangerous to talk to strangers, and that it is no different online. Few children would give out their phone number or address to a stranger on the street, they shouldn't on the net either.

Be careful! (5, Insightful)

neksys (87486) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517166)

I'm seeing a number of "use something like NetNanny" suggestions. This is poor advice. You're treating the symptom, not the problem. The problem can only be prevented through talking with your children about the possible dangers of internet contacts. They'll listen to you! Only then should such blocking/protection software be used, and only to serve as a reminder to the child that certain online behaviors are unacceptable - that the internet can and is a dangerous place at times.

Please, please, please, don't entrust your child's safety to a $29.95 piece of software!

PLEASE, MOD THIS ONE UP!!! (-1, Redundant)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517266)

If I had the points, I would.

Re:Be careful! (3, Interesting)

i_am_pi (570652) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517283)

Yes. NetNanny/Bess/CyberPatrol/etc are easily circumvented and nothing really can take the place of good, watchful looking. My school filters the internet with Bess and I've found no less than 3 ways around it. It blocks most useful pages and everything fun (UserFriendly, allyourbase.net, mp3.com/tlmom), while letting a LOT of porn slip through, and the offenders never get caught unless they (quite stupidly) print it or store it on the server.

Pi
For Great Justice|ecitsuJ taerG roF

scary stuff (5, Interesting)

tps12 (105590) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517169)

Online chat rooms are very scary to me.

As a parent I would be extremely wary about letting my children participate in such things in the big-name systems like AOL and Yahoo.

Ironically, I'm sure any legislation would go after the "unsupervised" systems like IRC, while leaving AOL chat rooms to their own devices.

not a parent (1)

tps12 (105590) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517278)

Sorry, I didn't mean to imply I am a parent. I'm not. I meant "if I were a parent."

Did they talk about actual victims? (1)

pyite69 (463042) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517182)


It is ridiculous for a bunch of adults to talk
about the theoretical worst case scenarios.

Hopefully they will look at the case of actual
victims - if parents prepare their kids properly
for internet use, this kind of thing would be
quite rare... if it isn't already.

how about the case when the parents dont care ? (5, Insightful)

atari2600 (545988) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517185)

I personally have come across a 13year child when i was 20y and she claimed to be 18y and would drool and sigh all day as i listened to her as i coded some crap
One day she said her little brother was dead by drowning in the tub - very obvious that she was loving the attention - and to think for a few mins. i was so concerned and then i had to coax her out her father's name...the emails she used to send me had her last name and traced her static IP to a state in the eastern US and used www.switchboard.com hoping to get a hit which i did and called her mom up and gave her a short lesson in how to raise kids.
The scary part was she did actually have an infant brother and she might have actually done something to him. Before you say the kids need to do something more productive, i would put the entire responsibility on the parents.

Depressing confirmation (5, Insightful)

drew_kime (303965) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517190)

The testimony and discussion was so removed from proposing new legislation, in fact, that Rep. Bass seemed a little bored and annoyed. He had to remind everyone twice that he and his colleague were lawmakers: "As a member of Congress, I would like to hear what recommendations you have for what we might do -- I haven't heard anything about that so far. ... If I could reiterate: we make policy. This is a very interesting problem, but precisely what suggestions would you have for us as policymakers? If you could draft the bill, what would it say?"

This confirms the worries I have seen here over and over: That lawmakers believe the only solution to a problem is more laws. It is completely inconceiveable to them that a problem may exist that is not best solved by increased legislation.

What do you expect (5, Insightful)

nuggz (69912) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517296)

This confirms the worries I have seen here over and over: That lawmakers believe the only solution to a problem is more laws. It is completely inconceiveable to them that a problem may exist that is not best solved by increased legislation

When your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Lawmakers make laws, they see a problem, then try to come up with a law to solve it, that is what they do.

The summary suggests that more laws will not help. It is just as important to make the right laws, as it is to NOT make the wrong laws.

Although even from the simple quotes they feel helpless, they see children being victimized, they have the power to make laws, and they want to help. They just don't know what to do, and it is quite upsetting to be helpless to solve such a problem.

Now in business speak here is my solution. Get a cross functional team to come up with an action plan.
Get lawmakers, enforcement, money people and experts together. Come up with a plan of attack, ie enforce existing child abuse/predator/stalking laws, educate PARENTS and children. Then go do it.

I think that lawmakers would be satisfied not making new laws if they saw the problem being effectively attacked in other ways.

When you only have a hammer... (1)

Soulfader (527299) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517358)

...Everything begins to look like a nail. I don't imagine that every legislator views legislation as the ultimate solution to every problem, but it certainly seems to be a prevailing attitude.

Questions weren't specific enough (4, Informative)

ShaunC (203807) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517192)

19% had "received an unwanted sexual solicitation" (imprecisely defined) but only 3% had been solicited with "attempts or requests for offline contact" or actual offline contact. And precisely 0 of the 1,501 children said they had been sexually contacted or assaulted due to online solicitations.
These stats are both good and bad. While I'm happy to hear that none of the kids surveyed had been contacted sexually, I have to wonder about the 19% who received an "unwanted sexual solicitation." That phrase conjures up images of 50-year-old pedophiles, just like CNN and the local news hope for. It gets parents agitated and concerned, and it's good for the ratings. But let's get serious. How many of those "unwanted sexual solicitations" were more along the lines of:

Billy12345: Hey Jenny, do you have the answer to homework question #4?

Jenny12345: No I haven't done my homework yet.

Billy12345: Well what if I came over to your place and gave you the answer.. and maybe gave you a kiss too..

Parents - and the general public at large alike - please keep in mind that "unwanted sexual solicitation" is not representative of "sexual predators" much less "perverts" or "pedophiles." The unwanted sexual solicitations these kids are getting could very well be from classmates, not random perverted strangers.

Shaun

Re:Questions weren't specific enough (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517240)

Sounds to me, like you're defending or covering up for people who make sexual assaults on kids. Just by claiming that the assaults aren't valid. You sir are a pervert.

Responsible steps in the right direction (2)

pinkUZI (515787) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517206)

Its good to see people taking rational and responsible steps towards solutions for such obvious problems in today's society. It is all to often these days that people jump to action not considering the side effects of their actions. I just think this is a great example of how to 'respond' to a situation, rather than react to one.

The real problem lies with ... (3, Insightful)

uq1 (59540) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517216)

The real problem lies with people are too eager to give their real identity away over the internet.
People should really start to think logically (and yes I know this is hard for a young child or teenager), but if common sense is applied, you should know that giving your name, address, phone number and pantie size to a stranger you've never met in real life is a tad stupid.

I remember when I was young and my parents told me about "stranger danger". You didn't see parents saying "DON'T GO OUTSIDE, ITS DANGEROUS" back then. They taught their children right and wrong, common sense and most importantly, if something doesn't feel right, don't do it.

Conclusion: Don't ruin something that you don't understand for those of us that do understand.

The real Danger is *Ideas* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517221)

Why is the meeting closed? No transcripts available? I guess knowledge really is Power. It appears that Empowerment of young minds is better left to our Federalized Education System, eh? LOL!

When you expose children to ideas that threaten the status quo, you need to have closed door meetings on how to challange this threat.

Perverts (3, Interesting)

huckda (398277) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517231)

My nephew was "approached" on an AOL kids chatroom, while at his grandma's house. I was visiting from college at the time and when he came and told me (he was 10) I promptly proceeded to tell the perverse idiot off and wrote an e-mail to AOL's cyber-patrol people(which I believe to be more of an automated mail system that gets grep'd for keywords rather than read) and never received a response.

His grandmother then refused to let him use the internet at all, and the computer for games only when someone else was in the office to supervise.

Sad, when a kid can't just be a kid anymore, on the net or anywhere else for that matter.

Re:Perverts (5, Insightful)

Aceticon (140883) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517369)

His grandmother then refused to let him use the internet at all, and the computer for games only when someone else was in the office to supervise.

Yep - the kid was definitly tought a lesson:
- Next time something like this happens (online or offline) don't tell anybody or else you're the one that will get punished.

Then again IANAP (I Am Not A Parent).

They don't know yet? (2)

Telastyn (206146) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517235)

By 12 kids should know, or at least be tought that not everyone in the world is a wonderful nice person like in the movies. Sure bad things can happen if they're thrown right into the rawest, most honest form of communication without considering the possibilities of deceit and general evilness.

Anecdotal Evidence (1)

BlueFall (141123) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517236)

Anecdotal evidence is useless. Congress: commission a scientific study or stop wasting our tax dollars.

good example of what happens when kids get online (2, Interesting)

atari2600 (545988) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517243)

The Ornitech company of Warwick, NY happens. These kids went to a bank to open a business account where they were told by the manager that they were only 15y. But these guys went ahead and have since shipped hundreds of ornithoper kits. BTW, an ornithoper is a contraption that flies by flapping it's wings.
http://members.tripod.com/ornitech/
heres the kids's site. Its a nice thing that they could get online, atleast for the kids.

Lack of Supervision is the danger to kids (1)

madirish2600 (149913) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517261)

I think the problem with online chat and kids is that they can log on and talk to virtually anyone and there is no control or confirmation over whom they are conversing with. On the one hand this is great, on the other it is like picking up the phone and randomly dialing away to find people to talk to. The advantage with the phone though is that parents get a bill and they can monitor to whom and when a child is making a call. I think the above post about not letting young kids have PC's in their bedroom withhout supervision. It is too easy for kids to log on and get access to all sorts of crap that they may or may not be prepared to deal with. Chat is right up there with online porn, its so easy for kids to access potentially dangerous stuff without parents even being aware if they're not in the room. Netnanny isn't going to block everything. Parental supervision is obviously the #1 way to stop dangerous behavior, but being able to monitor a childs computer use is the only way you're going to be sure. Putting the computer in the family room is a pretty good start.

chatting (2, Informative)

PyroPixie (579390) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517276)

ive been chatting online, starting out in the stupid compuserve rooms, since i was 11. passes made at me and what not arent very common, although i dont usually set myself up in that kind of situation. i think that the news makes it seem like it happens more than it does because they only report on the negative things that happen on the net. im not denying that there are people out there that are sick and do take advantage of kids. ive met some people off the internet and there are a few things that i always do reguardless of how long ive known them. usually i talk to the person on the phone first. then when i got to meet them i either meet them with a friend (as in, i bring a friend along with me) or we meet in a place where there are lots of people. my parents never really said much about online saftey so i took it upon myself to learn about it. i believe that parents should be involved with their childs online activity, and even though as scary as it may seem to the child, inform them of the potential dangers of people online. it doesnt hurt to inform someone, maybe it will get through to them.

Good timing... (2)

daoine (123140) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517279)

Considering that COPA just got sent back for review [slashdot.org] , this is probably a good time for a discussion like this. It's important that it NOT be a call for additional legislation -- COPA may have harmed kid-sites more than it did pr0n sites, and it'd be nice to see some people with their heads on straight when it comes to protecting kids vs. rights as adults.

BUG-SPLAT! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517286)

Waste time chat hooman. Fat lazee git hooman. Childrin hooman fat lazee stoopid too chat childrin hooman time waste. No care adult hooman. Bigg brane hooman, Ha! Waiteeng watcheeng bug armee. Treatee bug armee with all earth creeturs. No peace hooman so BUG-SPLAT! Attak bug armee go on as planned. 100% die inferior creature hooman!

BUG-SPLAT! @-@

One point about "parental responsibility" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 12 years ago | (#3517293)

Everyone wants to let the internet continue down it's ever deepening spiral, and content that the problem lies with parents. Now I agree that parents must be responsible for their kids, but what about those kids who's parent's won't be responsible? Is it ok for them to be victimized? Do we just write it off as "sucks to be them"?

The parents should do their job, but there are some slack-ass people who should never have been parents who won't do the job. So will we just watch their kids have to suffer the consequences?

Legislation vs. Old Fashioned Parental Attention (1)

kylus (149953) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517299)

Someone said it above in 4 easy steps and I say: A-M-E-N. I'm glad that there was not a call for more laws to protect kids from the dangers of online chat. It's certainly something to be concerned about, but legislation is no substitution for attentive parents. I for one am quite sick of the way some parents blame TV, video games, and the Internet for the way their children grow up, and place the responsibility of total child protection into the hands of the government. How many anti-drug commercials have you seen lately that basicly say something along the lines of "...know what your kids are doing and who they're doing it with..." or "...talk to your kids about drugs, they'll listen...?" Don't the same things apply to your kids when they're using a computer?

Open source: the key to parental supervision (2)

mikosullivan (320993) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517308)

In addition to its many other positive qualities, open source could provide the best resources for parental supervision and control of internet usage by kids. (Note: yes, I favor parents' rights to supervise what their kids see and do on the net. I know that's not a popular idea with many people here. Deal with it.) With a system like Linux it's much easier to set and enforce browser settings and other services on the computer. A parent could decide what access settings to put in the browser, monitor (or threaten to, more on that in a moment) chat sessions, etc.

I forsee a time when the home market for off-the-shelf Linux provides turnkey solutions to family computers that parents can feel good about giving to their kids. A solution of this type encourages civil liberties and privacy by showing that the market can handle its own problems without legislation. It encourages children's privacy by allowing parent to feel good about turing their kids loose on the web without watching over their shoulders (literally or figuratively). Yes, parents could secretly monitor chat sessions, but most parents don't really want to do that sort of thing. Parents will feel less need to do so if they can let the computer do the restricting and give the kids a little distance.

Poor Glenn Miller (1)

bopo (105833) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517316)

Gives a new (and sorta disturbing) twist to his lyrics, yes?

(I've Got A Gal In) Kalamazoo

I got a gal in Kalamazoo
Don't want to boast but I know she's the toast of Kalamazoo

Years have gone by, my my how she grew
I liked her looks when I carried her books in Kalamazoo

I'm gonna send away, hoppin' on a plane, leavin' today
Am I dreamin'? I can hear her screamin'

*shiver*

Repeat after me... (3, Insightful)

Denium (537999) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517326)

...the problem is not the medium.
The problem is not the medium.
The problem is not the medium.

Some kids can handle it well. Others...simply can't. I'm an administrator on a large IRC network [webchat.org] , and I've received only a few (three at most that I can think of) complaints about online {stalkings,pedophiles,unwelcome advances} in the two years that I've been an operator.

I think a much more prevalant problem are kiddiots [antioffline.com] with WinNuke and friends that have abused the medium by {flooding,hax0ring,cloning}. They're not mature enough to understand that their actions have consequences, and that they *will* be held responsible for them -- both on IRC and the real world. I can't count the number of times I've had some idiot constantly abuse, only to sulk back and beg for forgiveness once they realize that it's easier for me to remove them than they previously thought.

The greater threat (2)

leereyno (32197) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517344)

Greater than the threat of online pedophiles and creeps is the threat of Washington lawmakers with too much time on their hands and too many idiots among the public demanding that they enact counterproductive and even downright abusive legislation.

Luckily it would seem that while these lawmakers do have too much time on their hands, cooler and wiser heads are speaking on behalf of the public.

Lee

Next up.. How dangerous is playing in the street? (1)

Kasmiur (464127) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517349)

sigh. People if you are a parent watch your kids.

Though on another note. My ICQ has had my age as 14 for almost two years now. And yet I keep getting sex solication from random people. Perhaps we could start going after websites that target or offer sex pictures to children.

My 12 Year Old Daughter (3, Insightful)

FatHogByTheAss (257292) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517352)

Chat scares the shit out of me. Because of it, I've had to explain what a 'pedophile' is. I've had to encourage her to lie. I've had to encourage her to not trust anyone she hasn't put a face on. I've had to tell her that most of the rules that apply to your day to day life mean jack shit when you're dealing with an anonymous no one. That when you are on line, everyone is a liar and a looser.

She thinks I just don't get it.

Kids are stoopit. Even the smart ones. It scares the shit out of me.

Legislate niceness (2)

gelfling (6534) | more than 12 years ago | (#3517359)

Go ahead and try - it's great big beautiful world.

Honestly who are we talking about here? Kids from ages 10-13. That's about it. Earlier and most of it goes over their heads and older and they pretty much know how to deal with it.

And put the computer(s) in your home in an open common area. The ones that aren't in an open common area you should put bootup passwords on.
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