Everyone, and I mean every single person, should read this report, published December 19, 2005, in the New York Times
. Yes it's an 8-page story, but you need to read this. In short, it describes the story of one young boy who was exploited into performing sexual acts in front of his web camera by perverted sick adults who hunt for boys and girls like him on the web. The boy, Justin Berry, now 19, fell victim to these sick bastards (yeah, I'm calling them names, and I think I'm being way too nice to them) when he was 13. But I'm not here to narrate his story. That's why I gave you the link to the Times story to read. I am here to say what I think of this and who should be held accountable. Let me describe why this exploitation is entirely the responsibility of the perpetrating adults and not the kids who are victims, why the parents and guardians of these kids should be held accountable, and how a society can play a greater role in protecting these young children.
First, though, let's get one thing clear: If you are placing your anger on the Internet, you're mistaken. Children have been sexually and otherwise exploited by adults since the beginning of mankind, and the Internet is by no means the root of this evil. The Internet makes it easier and faster to find vulnerable kids, and to exploit them in the "privacy" of their own homes, but the same Internet also makes it easy and fast to get the stories of these exploits out and Internet technologies (traces) help us catch these criminals. The Internet is, in the end, a tool. Like any tools, it can be used to done good or harm. But I believe it does more good than harm.
There is often an excuse offered by the adult perpetrators of these sick crimes: the kids did it on their own accord. "Oh, we didn't hold a gun to their head." "Oh, we didn't rip their clothes off." "Oh we didn't make them build an illegal website." Bullshit. When kids are young and impressionable, they often are not aware what they're doing. You offer them money and things, in exchange for something you make look innocent. These adults know that full well. They also know explicitly how the psyche in a child's mind works, especially when the child does not get enough attention in school or at home and craves for attention, appreciation, a few "you're perfect"s. And they specifically exploit that helplessness in an innocent child, purporting to fill a void of friends, of companionship, of warmth in their lives, all the while only getting closer and closer to exploiting these children and use them as toys to masturbate to. Then they bring these children out of their homes and molest them time and time again. It is done entirely to satisfy these adults' pedophilic perverted sexual desires, where children become products to be traded (evident by their competition for ratings). These adults have no conscience, no humanity, no love. If they have their own children, what do they do to them? I don't even want to begin contemplating that. All I want to say is that these subhuman pieces of excretion belong in maximum security federal prison, and need to be locked up there for good.
Speaking of the child psyche that is exploited in these cases - that is, a child's lack of having enough attention at home or at school - there is a great deal of responsibility that parents and guardians must bear. Too many parents believe that "parental control" software can take the place of direct parental supervision. Too many parents think computer and Internet games can take the place of a parent's company. Too many believe technology can replace the need for parents spending quality time with their children - whether at the dinner table, checking their homework, in a family board game, family outdoor activities and games, participating in the children's school(s) and PTAs and so on. Nothing can ever replace a parent's company, caring, love. Having children is a cause for celebrating the miracle of life and living, but it is not easy. Parenting is the most awesome responsibility anyone can ever have (and we all choose to have that responsibility), and it's the responsibility of the parents to find out if there's something wrong with their growth, and how to fix it. Parents play the most important role in shaping a child's life, and if as a parent, you let tools - remember I said Internet is a tool only - take over your children's lives, your children run the risk of becoming tools and toys for those who seek to do them harm. Parents must play an active role in their children's lives. If you don't protect them, no one will.
But we cannot simply say that it's the parents' fault and stop at that. In a lot of the cases, parents are working too hard - two jobs in many cases - just to put food on the table. They are too tired when they come back home to spend time with their children or even have dinner with them. All they can do is crash. Too many, despite working hard, stand one paycheck away from the brink of disaster. Too many are worried sick about what's going to happen tomorrow. Too many cry themselves to sleep because they cannot take their child to the doctor because they lack health insurance. Too many cannot find work. Some are living with abusive spouses. Not that these parents don't have any responsibilities, but what they need is help, not blame. As a national community, if we care about our children, we must care about things like fair living wages, universal accessible healthcare, paid family leave, access to family planning services, and protection from losing one's life savings at the whim of the stock market. These are simple policies that our national leaders - right wingers - sometimes cringe at. But these are intricately related to our kids, their growth, and their safety. As a kind, caring nation, we need to use all our weapons to fight child sexual abuse and pornography. Strong law enforcement against the perpetrators is of paramount importance there, and so is social policies that help families protect their own children. We cannot succeed at solving this crisis by clinging to one of these weapons at the expense of the other.
In conclusion, we are justly outraged and terrified at these criminals who harm our children. And at the same time, we have to look for solutions. The criminal justice system, parents and guardians, and our social policies must work in concert to eradicate these heinous crimes from the face of our society.