Child Exploitation on the Internet introduction

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Mofolake Akinwonmi


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Child Exploitation on the Internet


With the introduction of the internet, communications and commercial sectors of the economy has been revolutionised. The Internet is a world-wide broadcasting capability, a mechanism for information dissemination, and a medium for collaboration and interaction between individuals and their computers without regard for geographic location.1The internet is one of the greatest inventions on the planet by virtue of the magnitude of information, communication and commercial activity that can be passed through it; however there are dark sides to it. New advanced techniques for sexual abuse, fraud, theft and other forms of criminal acts are developing on the internet. Crime on the internet includes the following: hacking, virus attacks, fraud, scams, money laundering, industrial espionage, prostitution, certain forms of gambling, drug use, drug smuggling, suicide assistance, defamatory allegations, cyber stalking, cyber terrorism, actual terrorism2,and also child exploitation, which is the basis for this paper.

The paper will discuss child exploitation and its various forms, concepts relating to child exploitation, the use of the internet by paedophiles, preventive measures for child safety online, role of govt, parents, communities in combating the crime.
Some Definitions


The term “child” means an individual under the age of thirteen, as defined by the

United States Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998. 3 Other definitions state, a child is a person below the age of 18years, a person between birth and puberty who has not attained maturity.

Child Exploitation
The word “exploit” means to use unfairly for one’s own advantage. Sexual abuse can be a form of child exploitation by photographing the child in a compromising situation, with the intent to either use the photos for their own sexual stimulation or to sell the photos as pornography. It can also mean kidnapping and selling children into prostitution, or simply just forcing someone younger and weaker to do your will.4


The word “pornography” has its origin from the Greeks. It described writing about prostitutes. It can be defined simply as sexually explicit material designed to produce sexual arousal to consumers.5


The word originated from the Greeks and means "lover of children". It was appropriated by people with sexual urges towards children. Paedophilia can be defined as "sexual attraction in an adult towards children”, a person who has such attractions towards children is a paedophile. Paedophile offences are framed in terms of rape, sexual assault, indecency, making or possessing child pornography and so forth.6

Various forms of Child Exploitation

There are various types of crimes which can be categorised under child exploitation. The U.S. Department of Justice, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) give the following categories: Child Pornography, Child Prostitution, Child Trafficking, and International & Parental Kidnapping, Child Labour. The internet is increasingly being used to perpetrate child pornography, child prostitution and child trafficking.

Child Pornography

This involves production, and distribution of child abusive images. The internet has made this very cheap and inexpensive. The introduction of the internet makes it easy for images, photographs and digitized movies to be reproduced and distributed to a large number of individuals at the click of a button. The distribution and receipt of such images can be done almost anonymously making it difficult to trace the originator. As a result, child pornography is readily available through virtually every Internet technology (web sites, email, instant messaging/ICQ, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), newsgroups/bulletin boards, and peer-to-peer). The technological ease, lack of expense, and anonymity experienced on the internet has lead to increases in the volume of child pornography. The Canadian National tipline second quarter results shows evidence of high increment in reported cases of child pornography on the internet.

In Canada, the Canadian National tipline ( was set up by the government for reporting online child sexual exploitation. It started in Manitoba, in Sept 2002 as a pilot project. On January 24, 2005, it was officially launched as a national service, and on September 1, 2005, it released results for its second quarter of operation since the official launch. The result showed over 300% increase in reports of child pornography, from 516 to 2,132 reports between the periods January 24, 2005 – July 30, 2005. The grand total of 4,541 reports were made since Sept 2002, of this total, 3504 reports were on child pornography, 280 reports on luring, 49 reports on child sex tourism, 52 reports on child prostitution 7.(See appendix1).

Child Prostitution

This can be described as the sexual exploitation of a child for remuneration in cash or kind, this is usually but not always organised by an intermediary (parent, family member, procurer or teacher).8

In Britain, according to reports in, an estimated 5,000 minors are involved in prostitution. In a survey of child prostitutes, 42% said their first sexual experience

was of abuse.9 In Japan, it was reported by the National Police Agency (NPA) that the rate of child prostitution was rising due to the growing use of the Internet by teenagers soliciting sex. A total of 666 cases of child prostitution relating to online dating sites were filed by the NPA in Japan between January and November 2002, 286 more than those filed in 2001. The NPA report said that girls below the age of 18 years solicited sex mostly by using web sites to contact cell phone users. At the World Congress against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Yokohama, in December 2001, the Japanese Justice Minister Mayumi Moriyama expressed concern over the fact that the internet is making it more difficult to tackle the explosion in rate of child prostitution. The exploiters were increasingly cunning and there was a huge increase in paedophile sites on the Internet.10

Child Trafficking

Trafficking in persons”shall mean the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

Children are trapped into trafficking by abduction or kidnapping on the street, or after grooming activity on the internet, by luring children into meeting face to face at a rendezvous. However, the vast majority of trafficking victims are trapped in more subversive ways. In some countries, traffickers promise their victims, usually girls and young women, that they will have respectable work when taken to developed countries. It turns out to be a bait, and they end up being sex workers.11 This is predominant in developing countries, where the child has to work to support the family in upkeep. Online dating and social networking sites have been noted to be used by criminals to get victims for child trafficking.

Why Paedophiles use the internet?

The internet is used by paedophiles in attacking their victims because the internet is an open network where it’s easy to hide your identity. The Internet’s technical development allows ever faster and more sophisticated ways of reproducing and handling sound and pictures. The internet also makes it easy for quick and fast "exchange" of material, which cannot be seen or tracked by a third party.12It provides easy access to victims, through grooming activity private details can be obtained easily. Chat rooms are hosted on the Internet and can be accessed by anyone from anywhere in the world. They are often considered safe by children because of the public nature of the conversations and the incorrectly perceived anonymity. Paedophiles pretending to be of the same age as their victims use this medium in getting victims. Paedophiles initiate conversations with likely victims to develop a rapport with the victim and to elicit as much information about location, interests, hobbies and sexual experiences with the intention of coercing the victims into pornography or sexual relations.

Stranger danger” concept is a common term used in educating children on the risks involving with associating with unknown persons, but children often don’t practise this while on the net. They make friends easily with unknown persons while chatting on the web. In a survey conducted on 1,500 children by The National Paedophile Crime Prevention Association Italy, 20% said they chat regularly, 21% use their own name with other users [of chat], 53% were involved in conversations of a sexual nature where they talked about cyber flirting, 16% said they had face to face meetings with other users they had met on the web.13 This gives some indication that children often do not guard themselves from association with ‘strangers’ while on the internet.

Measures for Child Safety Online

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) in the UK, reported one (1) in 12 children met up with someone encountered first online. In response to the need to improve children’s online safety , a virtual ID card scheme (NetIDMe Card) for children has been launched in the UK, US, Canada and Australia. The

NetIDMe card is for children to use online when using chatrooms, instant messaging and social networks to verify the age, firstname, gender, general location of person they are engaging in chat , to prevent grooming activity while online.14The NetIDMe card has its limitations; the scheme can only be effective if two children messaging each other are both signed up with the scheme.

To ensure safety of the child while on the internet, the following preventive measures can be adopted: (i)Keep user names & profiles generic and anonymous,(ii) Avoid posting personal photos online,(iii) Keep private information private, (iv) Keep computer in open area, (v) Remind children that unknown online ‘friends’ are strangers, (vi) Be aware of phone calls, chat messages , mails sent by your child, (vii) Be a part of your child’s online experience.

Online networking site My Space through adverts, is reaching out to teenagers and children warning them about the dangers of sexual predators on the web. The adverts are part of a campaign by the US Ad Council and the National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children to educate parents about what measures they can take to protect their children, and to raise awareness among teens on creating safe online relationships.15

The home which is the first point of refuge for a child must be able to educate and empower children on the risks associated with the internet. A child should be given restricted access to the internet, ideally on a ‘need to know’ basis, and with proper supervision and training on the crimes associated with the internet can be guaranteed of a safe online experience.
According to Aristotle,

Those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well”.

Appendix 1.

Canada’s National Tipline Second Quarter Statistics

National Breakdown

6mths prior to Launch

Jul 19, 2004 – Jan 24, 2005

6mths after Launch

Jan 25, 2005 – Jul 31, 2005

Since Inception

Sept 26, 2002 – July 31, 2005









British Columbia
























United States












TOTAL 613 2297 3885

Appendix 1 shows the breakdown in results for reports on child exploitation for Canada, U.S, International, and those with region not specified.


1 Cerf V et al , Nov 2006, “A brief History of the Internet”[online]

The Internet Society

Available from:

[cited 22ND November 2006].

2 Darlington R, Mar 2006, “ Crime on the Net [online]

Available from:

[cited 22nd November 2006].

3 United States Children's Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998,[online]

Available from:

[cited 30TH November 2006]

4 Wright J , 2006, “What is Child Exploitation”[online]

Available from:

[cited 27th November 2006]

5 West C, 2004, “Pornography & Censorship”[online]

Available from:

[cited 01 December 2006]

6 Australian Parents for Megan's Law, 2006, “Definition of a Paedophile” [online]

Available from:

[cited 01 December 2006]

7 Canada’s National tipline, 2005, “Child Pornography reports continue to climb”[online]

Available from:

[cited 01 December 2006]

8 Glossary [online]

Available from:

[cited 5th December 2006]

9 BBC children in need appeal [online]

Available from:

[cited 5th December 2006]

10 Child prostitution through Internet spirals in Japan, 2003, [online]

Japan Today News

Available from:

[cited 5th December 2006]


 UNICEF, “End Child Exploitation”[online]

Available from:

[cited 8th December 2006]

12 Save the Children Sweden’s Hotline against childpornography [online]

Available from:

[cited 5th December 2006]

13 Barrera M , “The dirtiest business in the world” [online]

Available from:

[cited 5th December 2006]

14 BBC News,August 2006, ‘Child Online Safety Card unveiled’[online]

Available from:

[cited 5th December 2006]

15 BBC News,11 April 2006, ‘ MySpace tackles teen Safety fears’[online]

Available from:

[cited 5th December 2006]

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