I have been privileged to be involved in cybercrime investigations for the last ten years. I have worked on cases tracking child pornography via the Internet and arrested some of the most despicable human beings that have ever walked the planet. These child predators are some of the worst offenders I have ever seen and the hope of rehabilitation does not look good.
As a father of three, the happiest moments of my life have been to witness the birth of my children: my two sons and my daughter. What greater gift has God given a parent to see the miracle of birth of their child and the hope that their life will be full of joy and happiness?
When we talk about the topic of sexting, we can’t help to fear that our child may become a victim and their life may be permanently changed by a destructive decision that cannot be reversed by the “undo” button on a computer.
Sexting can be the creation and transmission of a nude or partially nude image or video through technology such as an Instant Message, email, or some other digital means. States throughout the country are grappling on how we deal with this disturbing trend that permeates throughout the United States and our communities.
This blog will talk about the laws and the trends states are taking to deal with children that produce and disseminate these troubling images and videos.
We too often see a situation such as this: a fourteen-year-old girl meets a boy in school who becomes a trusted friend and an online relationship forms between the two. The boy urges the girl the take a few naked pictures of herself and sends them to the boys smartphone. He promises her that they are only for his viewing enjoyment and promises that only his eyes will see the images. She trusts him and knows that he would never show or tell another soul of their secret pact.
When the relationship goes sour, the boy decides to send the images via his smartphone to a few trusted friends. Those images get transmitted to a bunch of friends and soon the entire school gets to view these images of child pornography.
Under the law, these images are child pornography. The fourteen-year-old girl has manufactured child pornography and transmitted child pornography. The “trusted” boy not only possesses child pornography but has also distributed it. Every other person that has viewed it possesses child pornography. Any child that sent it to another has equally distributed child pornography.
In the state of NJ, if an adult possesses such an image they have committed a fourth degree crime, a felony. If they have transmitted child pornography they have committed a second-degree crime, a very serious felony.
In NJ, a child that takes part in these acts could be charged with these offenses under the Juvenile laws of the state.
As we all know, once these photos are sent to the general public, they may soon be gobbled up by predators and freaks that specialize in collecting images of child pornography. They are swapped with other nefarious characters that trade child pornography images through peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing programs. These images circle the globe and are distributed to hundreds if not thousands of other child pornography collectors. The victimization of this fourteen-old-girl never ends since the images that were sent, can never be taken back or destroyed. The victimization never ends.
It may be hard to imagine, but some countries allow child pornography to be sold in open markets and do nothing to fight against this despicable crime.
Organizations such as the National District Attorney’s Association (NDAA) have dedicated their staff and training initiatives to educate attorneys, police officers, and child advocates fighting child pornography, sexting, and cyber-bullying. Criminal investigators from the Federal, State and local agencies have shared techniques, and resources to battle the exploitation of children.
The NDAA has compiled resources to help follow these digital trends and monitor how states are battling issues such as sexting. One resource they have outlines how states have modified their existing laws to recognize this problem and update legislation and new laws to deal with kids who create or disseminate child pornography. Every day, more and more states are updating their laws to deal with this issue of sexting. Please review the way your state is dealing with this problem.
Parents should sit down with their children and have an open dialogue to discuss issues such as sexting and explain the power of smartphones, webcams, and other digital technologies. What a child believes to be a harmless moment of taking images of themselves in front of a mirror can haunt them for the rest of their life.
As parents we cannot ignore the possibility that our child may become involved in this nightmare scenario. They may be sent an image of child pornography and not know what to do.
In most cases the reporting of this incident is crucial for the police or school authorities to take action. Time is not on anyones’ side the moment these types of images or videos are sent. The quicker the police are involved, the less likely these images will make it to the masses and ultimately to the predators that collect them.
Kids have also lost control of their social networking accounts through hacking which exposed their private images to someone who readily distributes them for fun or profit. Kids have also been blackmailed to create more images of child pornography and distribute them or face the threat of public humiliation to their family, friends, or schoolmates.
Kids need to know that you, the parent, are ultimately there to protect them and can be the person they turn to. We would all jump in front of speeding train to save our child, and this type of dilemma is no different. When we prepare our children for signs of danger and how to react, we have reduced the chances of harm to them.
No family is immune from the digital threats that linger in cyberspace, but a proactive approach is our best defense. The rest we leave In God’s hands.