Web sites for children. They contact them and emotionally abuse them online by engaging in age-inappropriate sexually explicit talk or sending pornographic images to them. Some predators also set up physical meetings with children for the purpose of sexually exploiting and abusing them.
Chat rooms are online sites where people can correspond interactively. The transmission is instantaneous, so there is no lag between a person sending the message and the person on a computer at the other end receiving the message. The contacts are usually anonymous, with participants using nicknames. Chatters can take on any identity they choose. Sexual predators take full advantage of this. An additional attraction for those seeking to engage in illegal activities is that there is no record made of the message in chat rooms, as is the case for bulletin boards or newsgroups. Also, once two people meet in a chat room, they can quickly open up another private chat room, so that their conversation is private.
Among the millions of children online, their favorite sites to visit are chat rooms, where they talk for hours. The most widely used online service for families is America Online. On an average afternoon, after school in 1997, there were 400 public chat rooms open, each with more than 20 participants. A significant number were dedicated to sexually suggestive topics. 82
The initial and most important factor in a predator’s sexual abuse of a child is gaining access to that child. The Internet has provided a wide-open venue for that. Robert Davis, President of Lycos, one of the Internet’s most popular search engines, said that parents should be frightened of what and who their children encounter when using the Internet. He said he never lets his 9-year-old son onto the Web unless he is sitting beside him. 83
The problem of predators contacting children first came to widespread attention in May 1993 when 10-year-old George Stanley Burdynski, Jr. of Prince George County, Maryland disappeared. The investigation led to two suspects who had sexually exploited numerous boys over a period of 25 years. They were found to have used their computers to transmit child pornography and contact boys who were later sexually exploited.84.
The following are other cases of predators who have been caught using the Internet to make contact with victims.
United States Brooker Maltais, 22, an airman from Offutt Air Force Base, US pleaded guilty to committing indecent acts and having sex with a 14- year-old girl after they met by exchanging email messages via computer. 85
United States Four California men (Larry Ponziani, James Stelzenmuller, Patrick Vogt and David Dahlberg) were charged with having sexual encounters with a teen-age boy they met on the Internet. They pleaded guilty to charges such as oral copulation with a minor and sending pornography to a minor with the intent to seduce. 86
United States A Chelmsford, Massachusetts’ man, John D. Rex, pleaded guilty to raping two boys, ages 12 and 14. He met them through a computer bulletin board. He is now serving a 20 –25 year sentence. 87
United States In December 1996, Cheryl Kean’s 13-year-old daughter disappeared, presumably picked-up by the 22 year-old-man she