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Message From the Director

Children have always been vulnerable to victimization. Their trusting natures and naivete make them perfect targets for perpetrators—both people they know and those they don’t. As children grow into adolescents, they remain vulnerable to victimization.Youth are often curious and eager to try new things. Many youth struggle with issues of rebellion and independence and seek attention and affection from people outside the home, often by using computers. Today, an estimated 10 million children are using the Internet. By 2005, approximately 77 million kids will be online. With so many children online, today’s predators can easily find and exploit them. For predators, the Internet is a new, effective, and more anonymous way to seek out and groom children for criminal purposes such as producing and distributing child pornography, contacting and stalking children for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts, and exploiting children for sexual tourism for personal and commercial purposes.

The nature of Internet crimes presents complex new challenges for law enforcement agencies and victim service providers with regard to investigating crimes, collecting evidence, identifying and apprehending offenders, and assisting child victims and their families. For example, victims and perpetrators are often separated geographically, which may hamper investigation efforts. Also, victims are often ashamed and reluctant to come forward, which makes identifying offenders difficult. These challenges are being addressed by federal and local law enforcement agencies, but there is still much to learn about preventing, identifying, and investigating Internet-based crimes against children.

This Bulletin is based on the experiences of professionals now working with child victims of Internet crimes and their families. It highlights some of the challenges law enforcement and victim service professionals face in addressing Internet crimes against children and focuses attention on child victims of these crimes by examining who they are and how best to respond to their needs and the needs of their families.

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Internet Crimes Against Children

Internet Crimes Against Children


Scope of the Problem

Children as Targets of Internet Crimes—Who Is Vulnerable?

Types of Internet Victimization

Unique Characteristics of Cybercrimes

Youth Internet Safety Survey

Information and Intervention Resources

The Future


For Further Information


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OVC gratefully acknowledges Helen Connelly, an independent consultant, who conducted the original research for this project. Ms. Connelly identified and interviewed many of the key sources used in this Bulletin. OVC also gratefully acknowledges the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children for its generous help. In particular, OVC thanks John Rabun for his comments and suggestions during the review process and for helping OVC get timely access to Dr. David Finkelhor’s study findings for inclusion in this Bulletin.

Preparation of this document was supported by the Office for Victims of Crime, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, conclusions, and recommendations expressed in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.

The Office for Victims of Crime is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

This document was originally published in May 2001 and reprinted in December 2001 and December 2005.

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