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Teenagers uploading sexual images to internet

By Dan Buckley; The Irish Examiner, September 06, 2008

A growing amount of sexually explicit images of youngsters is being put on the web by the teenagers themselves, according to an expert in online abuse.

The traditional notion that it is middle-aged men who groom children for sexual exploitation is also wide of the mark, a conference on forensic psychology at UCC has heard.

"Here we call it grooming, but in the United States it is known as sexual solicitation and research there shows that about half of all solicitation is done by juveniles", Dr Ethel Quayle, of the Combating Paedophile Information Networks in Europe (COPINE) project in UCC, told a gathering of police, psychologists and policy makers at the university yesterday.

"Girls who use chatrooms are most at risk and young people who are personally troubled or in conflict with their parents are particularly vulnerable."

Dr Quayle said the images came from sources such as old photographs and videos (mostly Scandinavian from the 1970s), domestic and commercial images and those taken with hidden cameras. However, a growing number were found to be generated by teenagers themselves and either put on sites like Facebook, YouTube and Bebo or sent via mobile phones.

"As a result, we are seeing the increasing criminalisation of children, but that is not the answer," said Dr Quayle.

Citing the case of Adrian Ringland, a 36-year-old British paedophile who used internet chatrooms to hack into the computers of teenage girls, she said the internet is a medium that lacks adequate guardianship.

Her concerns were echoed by Mick Moran, criminal intelligence officer
with Interpol in France, who helped capture Canadian Christopher Neil, the world's most wanted paedophile, in Thailand last October.

"We need to de-technify the internet," Mr Moran told delegates, asserting that new technology was in danger of surpassing the ability of law enforcers to deal with internet crime."
"The internet is all about speed and fluidity of information, yet many police services do not even possess an email address or have access to the internet."

The National Bureau of Criminal Investigation is investigating cases
involving the downloading of child pornography in Ireland. This has come about directly as a result of sharing information between police forces through Interpol.

However, according to Mr Moran, information needs to be shared much more quickly.

"At the moment, it is largely paper-bound and police and governments are sticking their heads in the sand," said Mr Moran.

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