Internet-facilitated sex crimes against minors involve deceit and begin with adults communicating with children over the Internet with the goal of coercing them into illegal sexual activity. Sometimes the sexual abuse happens face to face.
Chat rooms, instant messaging, Internet forums, social networking sites, cell phones, and even video game consoles have issues with online predations. These online areas attract predators because they allow them to have access to make contact with victims without drawing attention. Also, the anonymity of online conversations leads to the disinhibition of minors, making them feel more comfortable and more likely to engage in risky behaviors. This allows predators to use manipulation to put their targets into situations where they will comply with the predator's sexual demands. Initial manipulation often involves introducing the minors to sexual activity, showing them pornography, and requesting sexually explicit information and pictures. This online predatory behavior does not often lead to offline contact.
Even though it is the mainstream view that predators will use distinct tactics to meet victims, most actual in-person meetings do not involve any deception. In fact, the minors are usually complicit with perpetrators often using promises of love and romance to seduce victims to meet.
In Australia, the murder of Carly Ryan in February 2007 led to public opinion pressure which eventually resulted in nationwide legal changes, nicknamed "Carly's Law", being made in 2017 to help protect minors online. Ryan, aged 15, was a victim of online grooming and predatory behaviour, which was considered unique at the time, given that Ryan was the first person in Australia (and possibly the world) killed by an online paedophile.
In the U.S., some individuals have initiated actions against laws designed to protect children. Doe v. Shurtleff, 628 F.3d 1217 (10th Cir. 2010), was a United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit case assessing the constitutionality of Utah Code Ann. § 77-27-21.5, a law that requires sex offenders to register their internet identifiers with the state in order to "assist in investigating kidnapping and sex-related crimes, and in apprehending offenders". In this case, a convicted sex offender, appearing anonymously as John Doe, appealed a decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah to vacate an order enjoining the enforcement of Utah Code Ann. § 77-27-21.5.
Cases involving stalking, violence, abduction, rape and/or murder are very rare. Most online sex offenders are young adults who target teens and seduce victims into sexual relationships. They take time to develop the trust and confidence of teens, so the teens see these relationships as romances or sexual adventures. Nearly 75 percent of victims who met offenders face-to-face did so more than once. Most of these offenders are charged with crimes such as statutory rape for non-forcible sexual contact as the victims are, by law, too young to consent. The youth most vulnerable to online sex offenders have histories of sexual or physical abuse, family problems, and tendencies to take risks both on- and offline. A 2007 study found no cases of minors being targeted by internet predators on the basis of information they had posted on social networking sites. The research that concluded the statistic that "1 in 5 children are sexually solicited online" is being questioned.
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