What You Can Do to Protect Children from Unwanted Sexual Solicitation Online
Programs to use and top tips for parents
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On October 28, 2013, Paul S. Hines, a 73-year-old Danbury resident and a chemistry professor at Western Connecticut State University, was arrested and charged with a third-degree criminal sexual act and endangering the welfare of a child, a 15-year-old from Somers. Hines corresponded with the victim online, then met the teen—who according to Hines' lawyer told him he was 19—at his home and engaged in sexual contact.
Sadly, this kind of news is not uncommon. According to the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, one out of 25 American teens receives “aggressive” sexual solicitations—which are sexual solicitations that had an actual or attempted offline contact. Recent arrests and convictions in Westchester for such solicitations include a police officer from New Rochelle, a middle-school teacher from Pelham, and a deli manager from Yonkers.
Even more common is online contact by Internet “creepers,” people (almost always men) who use the Internet to have sexually charged conversations or to persuade, coerce, or blackmail minors into sending them sexual photos or videos, which they can sell or circulate. It’s tempting, but futile, to consider banning your kids from ever touching an electronic device again—the Internet is just another tool for an old crime. And while it may have seemed easier to police a child’s circle of contacts in the days before the Internet and social media, when our worlds were smaller, children have always been at risk.