TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Through His Webcam, a Teenage Boy Joins a Sordid Online World

Re: Through His Webcam, a Teenage Boy Joins a Sordid Online World
22 Dec 2005 12:08:44 -0800

Ron Chapman wrote:

> Am I alone in being *flabbergasted* that a 13 year old boy has that
> kind of private time with a computer? Especially to the point that it
> got that far?

I don't agree at all. How much time was required for a peep show --
maybe an hour?

It's not uncommon for computer geek kids to spend hours in front of
their machine. Even in my day some kids spent hours after school at
the computer center. And kids did "porn" that parents didn't know
about, even if it merely naked or risque pictures done on a line
printer. I doubt mothers would be pleased if they knew.

Instant-Messaging is very popular among ALL kids today, as it the
Internet over all.

> Where were his parents during all of this?

The article discussed this. The father was absent, then disappeared.
Later on the father returned and got involved with the kid's
activities. The father also severely physically abused the boy when
he was younger and that may have played a role; kids who are abused
are more likely to get into this kind of behavior when they're older.
Clearly the father deserves much of the blame.

The mother, a single mom trying to earn money to support her family,
thought it was good her son was involved with computers. Better than
being out on the streets.

When I was in high school kids spent a lot of time on the computer
(Teletypes in those days). Parents had no idea what they were doing.
They were more concerned about coming home late on night from being
out on the streets rather than _why_ they was coming home late. Some
kids I knew in school were pioneer hackers via the Teletype.

> No matter; this kind of thing has been going on forever -- where the
> parents are totally oblivious to what's going on in their childrens'
> lives.

Yes and no. Once the kid enters junior high, the parents must accept
that their child now must have some independence. They can't watch
over the kid as they did when he was younger. It's not healthy for a
kid to be supervised so closely; they need some space to learn how to
make their own decisions and grow up. This distancing continues in
high school.

These days it's extremely difficult for a parent to monitor what their
kid is doing on a computer. The very nature of an all-purpose digital
computer and the Internet makes it hard. Virtually no parent is a
systems programmer with the skills to put on filters and monitors (the
way employers do), and none of that stuff is foolproof anyway.

BTW, there were boys who got National Geographic subscription as a
present, and promptly disappear into their bedrooms with it. Were
their parents or the gift-giver aware of the naked pictures the N/G
had in those days that boys enjoyed? Plenty of boys had Playboy
hidden in their rooms, did their parents know? Jeez, even in my day
stuff went down at co-ed parties for 13 y/o's that parents wouldn't be
pleased to know about. Don't be so quick to blame the parents.

> This is no different than Columbine, for example. So it happened with
> a computer instead of homemade bombs -- it's still a parental issue at
> heart,

This is totally different than Columbine. This kid was involved in
software and primarily victimizing _himself_ not a whole school.
AFAIK, he did NOT bring his friends (he was a loner) into his room and
get them to perform for the webcam, so there was no parade of strange
people for his parents to see. He was not stocking large physical
items. Software takes up very little room. There's a heck of a big
difference coming home with a trailing stream of computer printout and
a high powered rifle and strange friends. (Plus I think there's a lot
of about Columbine we don't know about.)

> The computer was the tool or outlet in this particular case, but this
> isn't about computers and the internet. This is about horrible
> parents, plain and simple.

Wrong. It is about _computers_, plain and simple. The whole
invention of the modern computer was for it to be a _general purpose_
device. Earlier machines and even computers were designed for
specifics like calculations, cataloging, business document preparation
(paychecks, bills, etc), or communications. Mixing all these
functions together was the ultimate goal and now we have it.

Today's computer lets people put together a lot of different functions
that greatly magnifies its power. Kids always had cameras, and
theorectically a kid could've taken nude shots of himself and sold
them, but it would've been very cumbersome to find buyers and complete
the transaction. Electronic networks and modern software -- like credit
card services and PayPal -- make it very easy. As the article
mentioned, perverts love the Internet.

Remember how the kid started -- he put up a single picture, requests
for just a little bit more came in, and so forth. The anonymity of
the computer made it so easy for it to happen. I strongly doubt this
kid would've willingly posed in person for such pictures and taken
direct cash, but the webcam and Internet changed all that.

At some point in the history of the automobile it was recognized that
autos had to be registered as did the drivers. Drivers had to take a
test, autos had to meet standards. Laws were passed regulating their

To put it another way, the law doesn't let 13 y/o kids drive cars or
drink alcohol or buy cigarettes, but the law lets them do anything
they please with a computer or network. Indeed, many people claim
cigarette ads encourage kids to smoke by creating a desirable
mystique. Maybe the computer world is creating too much of a mystique
for kids in a simialr manner. Teenagers like adventure and often
don't understand the real risks of their activities. Computers
located in the safety of their bedroom seem very safe, but we know
that is not true.

All of the adults who particpated in this enterprise were breaking
very serious laws. But the anonymity of today's computers makes it
hard to catch and prosecute them. The credit card payments apparently
get filtered through multiple layers making them difficult or
impossible to trace. Remember the kid was paid through gifts made to
on-line retailers, which helped keep the transactions at an arms

I frankly don't know what the answer is. But I take great offense if
the technology community washes it hands of any responsibility for
things like this. It's just like the automobile industry refusing to
put in safety features during the 1950s when it was clear they were
needed. In other threads we talked about the massive frauds and abuse
that the Internet has created.

I might point out that in the 1960s many people used dial telephones
to harass other people. This wasn't the telephone company's "fault",
but the phone co none the less had to work out solutions to curb the

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