Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 18, 2002
Monitor that Internet intruder
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
The details of the case were all too familiar. A 13-year-old girl agreed to meet a 25-year-old man in a Connecticut shopping mall after they exchanged flirtatious messages via e-mail. The meeting took place early in May, and the two engaged in kissing and fondling.
They met again a week or so later, and this time things spun out of control. According to the confession the man would later sign, he strangled the teenager with his bare hands as they had sex inside his car in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. Then he led police to her body.
Young people and the Internet can be a dangerous mix, as the Connecticut case sadly illustrates. It also brought a warning from John Danaher, the U.S. attorney in New Haven: "No parents would allow a stranger into their house to engage their child in conversation, but if you're not aware of what your child is doing on the Internet, that's exactly what's happening."
How tragic, then, that efforts to help parents shield young people from objectionable Internet material almost always go awry.
Attempts to block youngsters from Internet pornography, for example, have been struck down in court so often that it's not the children who end up being shielded. It's the pornographers.
Consider, for example, the recent action of the U.S. Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, which struck down a law that would have required libraries to filter the Internet for material harmful to minors.
The court ruled that the law as written would have blocked not only objectionable material but that which is unobjectionable as well - so much so that it would violate the First Amendment rights of library patrons.
Young people looking for trouble on the Internet will discover it's easy to find. Not only are youngsters themselves affected; the ready availability of Internet pornography plays directly into the hands of molesters and other sex abusers.
The president of Citizens for Community Values, an organization that seeks to reduce pornography-inspired violence against women and children, points out that about 85 per cent of those guilty of abusing youngsters admitted to regular use of hard-core pornography.
With so many people against them, what keeps pornographers in business?Well their industry has deep pockets. Those who aren't fussy about where it comes from know there's a lot of money to be made in the pornography business - more than enough, for example, to fight lawsuits in court, and to appeal rulings that go the wrong way.
Too, the pornographers rely on public ignorance and apathy; the less people know about the dangers of hard-core material, the better things are for those who supply it. And finally, some people who do know all about pornography are content to look the other way. They're more concerned with the kind of "freedom of expression" in which anything goes.
It stands to reason that a community that really wants to protect children from pornography and other dangers on the Internet will - some day - find a way to make it happen. Recent events however suggest it won't happen soon. In the meantime, parents have to be vigilant about the way young people use the Internet.
When it comes to fighting for traditional values, on the Internet or anywhere else, they're the best weapon we've got.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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