Protecting Our Youth Online? An Examination of Programs Keeping Youth Safe
and Analysis of Policy Vacuum
cyberspace did not become a popular facet in American homes until the
1990s, so in the grand scheme of technology, the Internet is still
considered to be in its adolescence. However, despite its young age,
approximately 87% of American youth use the Internet on a regular basis (Raine,
2006). While these youth are spending substantial amounts of time online,
many of them are becoming victims of criminal activity. The range of
crimes committed online, otherwise known as cyber crimes, is quite
substantial; however, the particular focus of this study is to examine the
preventative programs and policies developed to curb the online
victimization of youth (i.e., sexual solicitation, unwanted harassment,
and unwanted exposure to sexual material). While several attempts at
passing legislation have been unsuccessful, a few attempts by the federal
government to protect America’s youth have been successfully implemented
and will be reviewed. While there are only few evaluations of strategies
to prevent online victimization of youth to examine, suggestions of
strategies that could be applied to cyberspace based on situational-based
crime prevention strategy evaluations of other parallel programs in
different arenas are discussed.
William Gibson (1984)
predicted in his novel, “Neuromancer,” that society’s increasing
fascination and dependence on computer technology would create a
completely electronic world he termed “cyberspace.” Cyberspace would be
composed of millions of different outlets of information that were easily
accessible at the click of a button. Gibson also accurately predicted
that his new concept would contain dangerous channels leading to sources
of vulgarity, criminal activity, and a dangerous hidden world of
The range of crimes
committed online, otherwise known as cyber crimes, is quite substantial;
however, the particular focus of this study is to examine the preventative
programs and policies developed to curb the online victimization of youth
(i.e., sexual solicitation, unwanted harassment, and unwanted exposure to
sexual material). Gibson’s (1984) cyberspace did not become a popular
facet in American homes until the 1990s, so in the grand scheme of
technology, the Internet is still considered to be in its adolescence.
However, even though its young age, approximately 87% of American youth
use the Internet on a regular basis (Rainie, 2006). Based on the
youthfulness of this new arena of communication and information,
preventative programs, legislation, and technology to protect these youth
from unwanted harassment and victimization while using the Internet are
still in their infancy. The tools that have been developed and utilized
as a protection device have been formed under the premonition that
reducing the opportunity of online predators to victimize youth will in
turn deter them from committing the crime.
Examinations of these
policies and programs results in a disappointing finding that
methodologically rigorous evaluations to test effectiveness of these
protective measures are rare; therefore, it is difficult to confidently
preach the effectiveness of any the programs. Since new computer
technology is constantly changing, as well as methods to criminally
violate the technology, it is difficult to keep preventative measures
updated and effective. Possibly best quoted by Frank Andreano (1999)
“…dealing with computer crime and the protection of information based
technologies is much like the weather in Chicago; wait a few minutes and
it is bound to change” (as cited in Lewis, 2004, pp. 1359).
This article will
briefly examine the origins of the Internet and how it became a
commonality in American households. While several attempts at passing
legislation have been unsuccessful, a few attempts by the federal
government to protect America’s youth have been successfully implemented
and will be reviewed. Next, the theoretical basis from which these
current prevention programs and policies were developed will be examined.
Only a few evaluations of strategies to prevent online victimization of
youth are available for examination; therefore, suggestions of
situational-based crime prevention strategies that could be applied to
cyberspace, based on empirical evidence supporting these types of crime
prevention programs, will also be discussed.
Part I. Investigating
Cyberspace and Preventive Issues
Origin of the Internet
recorded notes birthing the idea of the global information system now
known as the Internet were written in 1962 by J.C.R. Licklider of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Licklider & Clark, 1962, as cited
in Leiner et al., 2003). His “Galactic Network” idea entailed an
internationally connected set of computers that allowed for easy
accessibility to information. While working at the Defense Advanced
Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Licklider’s co-worker Lawrence Roberts
(1967) published his idea for “ARPANET” while working with DARPA. ARPANET
quickly evolved into what is now known as the Internet. A new version of
protocol called Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP)
was developed and the general public increased its growing demand for
computers. By the 1980s, more vendors were incorporating TCP/IP into
their products, because of the increased use of networking by businesses
and service providers. This in turn heightened interest among private
Internet users (Leiner et al., 2003).
With this amplified
popularity for technology, the Internet experienced the perfect
environment to thrive, and soon began to do so. The goal of the Internet,
originating with ARPANET, was to become a collection of communities that
provided useful information to its users. By the early 1990s, use of the
Internet became a familiar facet in businesses and homes, and by the year
2001, 75% of the United States population was avid users of the Internet
(Sanger, Long, Ritzman, Stofter, & Davis, 2004). Today’s Internet now
allows us to shop, make travel arrangements, buy stocks, and most
The medium of
communication on the Internet, often referred to collectively as social
technology (Lamb & Johnson, 2006), has enabled people of all ages
(especially youth) to expand their social circles and improve their
ability to communicate with friends and family in an inexpensive manner
(Roberts, Foeher, Rideout, & Brodie, 1999). Social technology refers
generally to computer-mediated communication (CMC) devices that connect
people for personal and professional information sharing. The use of CMC
methods allows for ease in the workplace, educational setting, or home to
communicate effortlessly with others (Simon, 2006). However,
since the Internet had become a familiar face in American homes, much like
any useful commodity, the beginnings of its corruption started to emerge.
Adult users began to prey on younger users in chat rooms, as well as via
email and instant messenger. Soon, most Internet users were unable to be
online without receiving some type of vulgar email or unwanted approach by
a stranger (Mitchell, K., Finkelhor, D. & Wolak, J., 2003; O’Connell, R.,
Barrow, C., & Sange, S., 2002; Sanger et al., 2004; Wolak, J., Mitchell,
K.J., & Finkelhor, D., 2004; Wolak, J., Mitchell, K., & Finkelhor, D.,
2006). At that time, protective policies and programs began to
emerge as a manner of attempting to protect youth online.
The federal government
has made numerous attempts at passing legislation and instituting
protective programs to prevent online victimization of youth. In the
mid-1990s, Senator Orrin Hatch authored United States Senate Bill 1237,
later known as “The Child Pornography Prevention Act (CPPA) of 1996.” The
bill amended the definition of child pornography to include the
photography, filming, and videoing of sexually explicit conduct of real
minor children, as well as digitally-created images of a child involved in
pornography. With this amendment, a person could be charged with
possession of computer-generated child pornography (Henderson, 2005;
Kendall, 1998; McCabe, 2000).
constitutionality of the CPPA quickly was challenged. In United States
v. Hilton (1998), the defendant asked that charges of possession of
child pornography violating the CPPA be dismissed. Hilton stated that the
statute prohibited constitutionally protected speech by banning adult
pornography, and that the language in the statute was vague and
overbroad. Although the United States Supreme Court found his first claim
to be unmeritorious, it did rule that the language of the CPPA was vague
and did not clarify the prohibited conduct.
The constitutionality of
the CPPA was again challenged by a group of plaintiffs known as the Free
Speech Coalition. The United States District Court of the Northern
District of California, in The Free Speech Coalition v. Reno
(1997), ruled that because the CPPA does
not require advanced approval for the production of adult pornography that
does not include minors, nor does it entail a complete ban on
constitutionally protected material, it is not a violation of the First
Amendment. However, in 1999 the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
reversed the district court’s ruling on the Act. It ruled that the First
Amendment does not allow Congress to pass a statute that criminalizes the
mere generation of an image, because an actual human being was not
involved (Mota, 2002). In 2002, the United States Supreme Court held that
since actual children were not used in the photographs and videos in
question, these productions were protected by the First Amendment
“Communications Decency Act” (CDA), a part of the “Telecommunications Act
of 1996,” was enacted to limit the exposure of children to sexually
explicit pictures available online (Mota, 2002). Under this Act, any
person who knowingly creates, solicits or transmits images to a minor
under the age of 18 could be penalized by imprisonment for up to two years
and/or a fine of $250,000 per offense. However, on June 26, 1997, the
United States Supreme Court decided that the CDA’s “indecent transmission”
specification violated the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech.
Telephone companies and Internet providers were declared not liable for
indecency that was beyond their control. In response to the dismissal of
the CDA, Congress then passed the “Child Online Protection Act” (COPA)
(Henderson, 2005; Hunter, 2000; Mota, 2002).
contemporary standards based on a test developed in Miller v.
California (1973). The Miller test contains three components
that are used to determine if speech is obscene: 1) whether the average
person would contend that the material contains prurient value; 2) whether
the work depicts sexual acts or excretory functions in an offensive way;
and 3) whether the material lacks serious artistic, literary or political
value (Virginia Tech, 1997). COPA applied only to material put on the
Internet and made for commercial purposes, and it restricted only the
documentation harmful to minors. Under this Act, any accused persons must
have knowledge of the content of the material, and the material must meet
the standard of appealing to the prurient interest of an average person.
A violation was classified as a misdemeanor, with the punishment of six
months in jail and a $50,000 fine for each violation. The Attorney
General also was authorized to collect $50,000 in civil penalties.
However, in 2004, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Ashcroft v.
American Civil Liberties Union (2002) that once again, the
tenets of the Act were in violation of the First Amendment (Henderson,
2005; Hunter, 2000; Mota, 2002).
All of above-referenced
acts were overturned on the basis of unconstitutionality. Recently, the
government has had more success in passing legislation with the objective
of protecting adolescents from victimization online in schools, as well as
proactive law enforcement efforts to reduce victimization. The Children’s
Internet Protection Act (CIPA), enacted by Congress in December 2000,
addressed access to offensive Internet material on school and library
computers. Certain requirements of CIPA were imposed on schools and
libraries receiving federal funding for Internet access under the E-rate
program; if these regulations were not followed, the E-rate funding could
be removed. The CIPA regulations basically required filtering and
blocking software, as well as other safety measures, to protect children
from accessing obscene and harmful material (Federal Communications
Commission, 2006). Building on the concept of CIPA, the Deleting Online
Predators Act (DOPA) was introduced to the House of Representatives in
spring 2005. DOPA intensifies the regulations of CIPA, as it would
require schools and libraries to completely restrict children’s access to
all Internet sites through which strangers can contact them (Fitzpatrick,
2006). Currently, it has passed the House of Representatives by roll call
vote and is awaiting Senate approval.
actual legislation, the federal government has developed various programs
to assist law enforcement and parents with the protection of children
online. The Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program,
created by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP)
in 1998, was developed to help state and local law enforcement construct
programs to respond to crimes of online enticement and child pornography.
One of the more successful programs, CyberTipline and CyberTipline II (CyberTipline’s
later enhancement), allows for citizens to report suspicious activity on
the Internet, as well as submit unwanted photographs or videos sent to
them electronically. In March 2001, the ICAC Task Force reported that
because of these citizen reports, more than 550 individuals had been
arrested for child sexual exploitation, and 627 search warrants had been
served (Medaris & Girouard, 2002).
Also in 1998, the Cyber
Division was developed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to solely
investigate computer crimes, such as intellectual property theft and
computer security breaches. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3),
located in the Cyber Division, received over 200,000 complaints of
Internet crimes, 103,509 of which were referred for investigation.
However, the Cyber Division also has jurisdiction over crimes involving
online child pornography under the Innocent Images National Initiative (IINI).
Between 1996 and 2003, 9,366 cases were opened by the IINI, which resulted
in 2,569 convictions (Bazelon, Choi, & Conaty, 2006).
In May 2006, Attorney
General Alberto Gonzales announced the implementation of Project Safe
Childhood, a program designed by the Department of Justice to protect
children from online abuse. Gonzales encouraged United States Attorneys
across the nation to partner with the ICAC task forces and law enforcement
officials to develop educational programs that raise awareness of the
dangers of online predators and child pornographers. The goal of the
program is to increase public awareness and education of Internet dangers
so that residents can protect themselves (United States Department of
Part II. Internet and
Theories of Crime
Society and its activity patterns are in a constant state of
transformation (Madriz, 1996), especially with the development of new
technology. For example, the daily and routine activities of children
have evolved from bicycles and dolls to video games and the Internet.
Raine (2006) reported that 87% of youth currently are using the Internet,
and that number likely will continue to grow. However, as innovative
technologies emerge, new methods of victimization also accompany these
developments (Mitchell, K., Finkelhor, D. & Wolak, J., 2003; O’Connell,
R., Barrow, C., & Sange, S.,
2002; Sanger et al., 2004; Wolak, J., Mitchell, K.J., & Finkelhor, D.,
2004; Wolak, J., Mitchell, K., & Finkelhor, D., 2006).
Early tests of Routine
Activities Theory, which often is used to examine different types of
victimization, focused on the importance of the environment as a vital
component of interaction between criminal offenders and victims (Cohen &
Felson, 1979). This is particularly relevant to the current research, as
the environment, cyberspace, is a necessary factor that must be present in
order to both participate in online activities and become a victim of
harassment or other online crime. Cyberspace, which thrives on the
possibilities of the unknown, also provides the opportunity for engaging
in activities without the presence of a capable guardian. This is true for
both the offender and victim, as both parties potentially can participate
in deviant behaviors without guardianship being present (Beebe, T., Asche,
S., Harrison, P, & Quinlan, K., 1998; Danet, 1998; Jones, 1999).
According to Felson (1987), a lack of behavioral controls encourages
willingness to participate in criminal activity, and motivated offenders
will place themselves in areas that have an abundance of suitable
targets. For example, youth-oriented chat rooms, instant messaging
services, and social networking web sites provide a plethora of
opportunities for motivated adult predators. As stated by Felson (1987),
it is comparable to “how lion look for deer near their watering hole” (p.
Maier (1991) suggested that Routine Activities Theory is excellent for use
in the examination of predatory or exploitative crimes, which is precisely
the type of deviant behavior examined in this article. From the initial
assertions of Cohen and Felson, and in conjunction with the works of
various other scholars, the currently recognized Routine Activities Theory
has been formed. This theory states that there are three components
necessary in a situation in order for a crime to occur: a suitable target,
a lack of a capable guardian, and a motivated offender (Cohen & Cantor,
1980; Cohen & Felson, 1979; Cohen & Felson, 1981; Felson, 1986; Felson,
1987; Hawdon, 1996; Lasley, 1989; Sampson & Wooldredge, 1987). Moreover,
crime is not a random occurrence, but rather follows regular patterns that
require these three components.
Theory has gained a sizable amount of empirical support in regards to the
investigation of illegal behaviors on the macro-level (Cao & Maume, 1993;
Cook, 1987; LaGrange, 1999; Roncek & Bell, 1981; Roncek & Maier, 1991;
Sampson, 1987; Tseloni, Wittebrod, Farrell, & Pease, 2004), as well as the
micro-level, such as property and property crimes (Arnold et al., 2005;
Cohen & Cantor, 1980; Cohen et al., 1981; Collins, Cox, & Langan, 1987;
Gaetz, 2004; LaGrange, 1994; Lasley, 1989; Lynch, 1987; Moriarty &
Williams, 1996; Mustaine & Tewksbury, 1999; Spano & Nagy, 2005; Tewksbury
& Mustaine, 2000; Woolredge et al., 1992) and domain-specific models (Ehrhardt-Mustaine
& Tewksbury, 1997; Garofalo, Siegel, & Laub, 1987; Lynch, 1987; Madriz,
1996; Wooldredge et al., 1992). Although there have not been any recorded
applications of Routine Activities Theory to the online victimization of
youth to support its use in cyberspace, the support it has received from
other studies would indicate the components could be paralleled in
cyberspace to prevent victimization of youth.
Part III. Strategies
to prevent online victimization
empirical examinations have been performed on any type of measures
instituted to prevent online victimization of youth. Of the few studies
that have evaluated these measures, the tenets of the program are mirrored
from the components of Routine Activities Theory. Strategies such as
proactive measures and filtering and blocking software programs, which
will be examined below, have been shown to have some effect on online
investigations are considered advantageous in several ways, including
increasing public safety, economically feasible, and increasing potential
of apprehend offenders before harm is caused to innocent children (Girodo,
Deck, & Morrison, 2002). This type of investigation makes up at least
one-fourth of all investigations of Internet sex crimes against minors and
therefore makes a significant contribution to arrests (Mitchell, Wolak, &
Finkelhor, 2005). The elimination of the motivated offender through the
arrest of offenders reduces the victimization of youth.
A study by Mitchell et
al. (2005) utilized data from the National Juvenile Online Victimization
Study (NJOVS) to examine the effectiveness of proactive investigations of
adults sexually exploiting juveniles on the Internet through child
pornography or sexual solicitation. A national sample of state, county,
and local law enforcement agencies were surveyed by mail regarding arrests
made for these crimes between July 1, 2000 and June 30, 2001. For this
particular study, a sub-sample of 644 arrests was examined in which
offenders were arrested during proactive investigations on the Internet
(Mitchell et al., 2005).
from the analysis of the NVOJS were indicative that proactive
investigations were worthwhile for law enforcement. Charges filed against
those in proactive investigations varied from an attempted crime,
Internet-specific crime, or some form of inducement. Over 90% of
arrestees were charged with at least one felony and 91% resulted in guilty
pleas. According to Mitchell et al. (2005), this intervention by law
enforcement protected many children from the potential of molestation.
Second, this active presence of undercover investigators may serve as a
deterrent for others who maybe be contemplating the offense.
Many of the statutes
passed to criminalize certain materials and activities deemed harmful to
minors have been challenged and overturned based on the restriction of
free speech provided for in the First Amendment. Courts often have
suggested the use of filtering and blocking software as an alternative to
legislation, which are assumed to be equally effective, but less
restrictive (Volokh, 1997). According to Routine Activities Theory, this
capable guardian would monitor and protect children during the use of the
Internet, especially when the parent is unable to do so. The Clinton
administration also endorsed the use of software, stating that it would do
a better job of protecting children from harm on the Internet than any
statute (Clinton, 1997). Further federal support came from the chairman
of the Federal Communications Commission, William Kennard (1999), who
compared the unchaperoned use of the Internet to allowing a child to
explore a large city without assistance. Former Vice President Gore
(1999) also put forth filtering software as the best tool parents could
use to protect their children.
Filtering and blocking
software potentially can serve two functions: 1) filtering the receipt of
messages, text, or pictures containing certain language, and 2) blocking
access to certain sites. According to The Guide (2001), these functions
can be further characterized into five different types of software for
filtering and blocking certain materials: time-limiting, filtering and
blocking, outgoing content blocking, kid-oriented search engines, and
monitoring tool. Most family-based Internet safety recommendations
endorse the use of filtering and blocking software. However, regulatory
advocates have produced studies noting limitations with their use. A
study by Consumer Reports evaluated six of the mainstream filtering
programs and found that all but one, America Online Young Teen Control,
blocked at most 20% of sites containing restricted material (“Digital
chaperones for kids,” 2001). Furthermore, the six programs also blocked a
wide range of legitimate content.
Hunter (2000) tested the
effectiveness of four popular filtering and blocking software programs:
CYBERsitter, Cyber Patrol, Net Nanny, and Surf Watch. He tested the
abilities of the programs to block objectionable material, as well as
permit non-objectionable material. A website was ranked objectionable or
non-objectionable based on its Recreational Software Advisory Council
Internet (RSACi) rating, which has five levels of severity based on the
content of language, nudity, sex and violence on the website. Websites
with a score of two to five were deemed objectionable, and anything below
a score of two was non-objectionable. Hunter used three different samples
to evaluate the software. The first sample was a set of 50 randomly
selected web sites; the second sample was composed of web sites found from
a set of 50 popular search terms (i.e., MP3, sex, and Yahoo); and the
third sample entailed 100 purposively selected web sites (Hunter, 2000).
Of the four software
programs, CYBERsitter was found to do the best job of blocking
objectionable material (69%), with Cyber Patrol coming in second with 56%
blockage. Surf Watch only blocked 44% of the objectionable material,
compared to the 95% blockage claimed in its advertising literature.
Finally, Net Nanny did the worst job of blocking material, with only 17%
blockage. In regards to blockage of non-objectionable material,
CYBERsitter blocked the highest amount with 15%. The other three software
packages blocked an average of 6% (Hunter, 2000).
IV. Recommendations and Conclusions
Proactive measures serve
as a means to curb the activities of the motivated offender (Girodo, Deck,
& Morrison, 2002; Mitchell, Wolak, & Finkelhor, 2005). Filtering and
blocking software not only serves as a block for motivated offenders, but
also as a guardian against victimization (Clinton, 1997; Hunter, 2000;
Volokh, 1997). In combination with the other components, these measures
decrease target suitability. However, there is still a need for further
programs and measures to protect against online victimization and new
ideas could come an effective protective measure already in use in the
physical world: target hardening.
Despite the various
types of legislation and programs developed to protect children against
online victimization, there are only a few scientific evaluations of these
programs and policies to determine if they are truly effective. Based on
this, it would not be unwise to examine other types of preventative
measures that have been successful in other places and expect them to be
or place-based, crime prevention strategies are successful with the same
means as hot spot police patrols: they are used when and where they are
most needed. Rather than attempting to alter the behavior of the
offender, the purpose of situational crime prevention strategies is to
block the opportunity of commit criminal behavior in a specific place.
According to Eck (2002), place-based tactics could be more influential
than offender-based plans because it pays closer attention to immediate
situations rather than preparing a person for an uncertain period of time
in the future. Referred to as place improvement-processes (Brantingham &
Brantingham, 1995), these types of plans are known for reducing crime by
reducing the attractiveness of committing a crime in certain areas
(Barclay, Buckley, Brantingham, Brantingham, & Whin-Yates, 1996;
Brantingham & Brantingham, 1998).
A particular type of
situational crime prevention strategy that has been shown to be effective
is target hardening, which is providing locks and improved security to
access points. In regards to a crime in a physical location, burglary
rates have reduced because of target hardening strategies (Bowers,
Johnson, & Hirschfield, 2004). This type of strategy could be considered
a secondary and tertiary prevention strategy (Pease, 2002) because of its
aim to block those at high risk of committing an offense, as well as those
who have a criminal history of burglary offenses.
The particular place of
this study, cyberspace, is definitely in need of an effective crime
prevention strategy. Target hardening in cyberspace could be the security
measure needed to protect youth while using the Internet. Situational
crime prevention measures that utilize target hardening have an effect of
deterring potential offenders away from criminal activity because it
tightens security of the particular place (Brantingham & Brantingham,
2005). For example, if a homeowner desires to increase security in his
home, he may choose to install an extra lock on all the doors into the
home. Increased use of digital locks, such as passwords and controls set
by parent or guardian figures, is a potential protective measure that
would increase security in cyberspace. Not only would these locks keep
motivated offenders out of certain areas used by youth, it would provide a
guardianship component to restrict youth from accessing areas
inappropriate for their viewing (i.e., adult pornography sites). Content
rating sites, such as SafeSurf, allow parents to set passwords and levels
for their children during Internet use (Joseph, 2007).
The threat of online
victimization for youth has shown to be present and increasing as new
technologies emerge on the Internet (Mitchell, K., Finkelhor, D. & Wolak,
J., 2003; O’Connell, R., Barrow, C., & Sange, S., 2002; Sanger et al.,
2004; Wolak, J., Mitchell, K.J., & Finkelhor, D., 2004; Wolak, J.,
Mitchell, K., & Finkelhor, D., 2006). The federal government, as well as
private organizations, has attempted to decrease the problem with various
programs and legislation (Bazelon, Choi, & Conaty, 2006; Clinton, 1997;
Girodo, Deck, & Morrison, 2002; Henderson, 2005; Hunter, 2000; Mitchell,
Wolak, & Finkelhor, 2005; Mota, 2002; Volokh, 1997). However, very few
empirical examinations of these programs demonstrate conclusiveness
evidence of what is effective; therefore, we as a society are left with an
enormous number of people in our society under the age of 18 who are
vulnerable to become a victim online.
Based on the
large amount of support found for Routine Activities Theory when exploring
crime and preventative measures (Arnold et al., 2005; Cao & Maume, 1993;
Cohen & Cantor, 1980; Cohen et al., 1981; Collins, Cox, & Langan, 1987;
Cook, 1987; Ehrhardt-Mustaine & Tewksbury, 1997; Gaetz, 2004; Garofalo,
Siegel, & Laub, 1987; LaGrange, 1999; Lasley, 1989; Lynch, 1987; Madriz,
1996; Moriarty & Williams, 1996; Mustaine & Tewksbury, 1999; Roncek &
Bell, 1981; Roncek & Maier, 1991; Sampson, 1987; Spano & Nagy, 2005;
Tewksbury & Mustaine, 2000; Tseloni, Wittebrod, Farrell, & Pease, 2004;
Woolredge et al., 1992), new strategic measures that are developed under
the same theoretical basis should work. Programs that increase
guardianship while decreasing target suitability (i.e., digital locks and
protections), as well as deter the motivated offender approaching youth
online, would be expected to decrease the likelihood of victimization.
Much like initiatives to make parks and playgrounds safe for our children,
we need to make our children’s cyber-playground a safer place to play.
An important note to
remember is that the success of proactive prevention programs and other
types of online safety measures is limited. The first and most imperative
step to protection of children online is educating them on why it is
important to avoid certain behaviors and places on the Internet. We as
parents, law enforcement, and policymakers can implement as many programs
as possible to keep our children away from dangerous zones online, but if
they do not understand why it is dangerous, determination will find a
way. Organizations such as the National Center for Missing & Exploited
Children (2007) and Prevent Child Abuse America (2007) provide educational
literature for children and adults about protecting yourself online.
Through the use of these tools like these and other informative measures,
we can keep the Internet a safe place for our children, as it was
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Assistant Professor, Georgia Southern University, Department of
Political Science, PO Box 8101Statesboro, GA 30460. United States of
America. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org