Maureen Horkan, director of Florida's Child Predator CyberCrime Unit, shares a letter of caution for all parents.
The vast distribution of child pornography affects all of our children, in addition to the victims abused in the images. The huge volume of these sexual abuse images on the Internet affects normal everyday children because it is easily accessible by children in many of the normal computer activities they engage in every day.
It is not difficult to find this material; you do not have to join a club or find a website. It is trafficked on free, Web-based software that most kids know all about and use regularly to find and download things like music and movies.
Parents have to talk to their children about this material and the fact that is illegal and involves real children being abused. They need to ensure that we do not show up on their doorstep next with a search warrant.
In the three years since we started this initiative, we have gone to many homes expecting to find an adult and ended up finding a child.
The consequences for our children are huge, and in every case where we find a child looking at these images, the parents had no idea. It is very likely that children would come across this material, and you can only imagine what the impact of that could be on them if they are still in the developmental stages. Exposing children to this material normalizes sexuality with and between children.
This destroys them in so many ways. It objectifies sexuality, it makes it common that children can be used for sex, it normalizes violent sex and it externalizes sexual activity so they do not have to give or be emotionally present to participate. All of that is in addition to the fact that it exposes them to sex at such a young age.
Normal adults who might see these images by accident (assuming they do not already harbor latent pedophilia) would be sick and not stimulated by the content, but children in developmental stages that see/use this material could be affected by it forever.
They may be confused, act out similar abuse, possibly go to jail and be a registered sex offender forever.
Florida has passed laws to increase the number of investigators, increase punishments and raise awareness. We have shared all of this with other states' attorneys general and will continue to share knowledge and resources in order to protect our most precious gift, our children.