TEENS AND THE INTERNET:
Disturbing "Camgirl" Sites Deserve a Closer Look
By HARRY A. VALETK
Thursday, Jan. 23, 2003
A growing number of teens in the U.S. and U.K., some as young as 14 years old, are getting into the habit of asking for handouts online. Known as "camgirls" and "camboys," teens are posting webcam photos of themselves in skimpy outfits on personal websites, linking them to wish lists on shopping sites like Amazon, and then asking admirers for gifts. Typically, gifts include popular teen items like CDs, DVDs, and stereos. But, some entrepreneurial teens give special admirers access to "members only" sections that offer more provocative shots in return for more expensive gifts. Surprisingly, this spectacle in teen self-exploitation has gone largely unnoticed among parents and policymakers. And, as more youngsters become seasoned Internet users, the concern is that these sites will become even more popular. According to a 2002 Commerce Department study, teens as a group are now using the Internet in record numbers. Specifically, the study found that 75 percent of teens between 14 and 17 years old, and 65 percent of teens between 10 and 13 years old, regularly use the Internet. Given the potential for harm, however, the virtual "camgirl" universe is something that we should examine more closely. Camgirl Sites Are Dangerous
For teens, the danger of camgirl sites is that they can mislead minors into thinking they can safely post visual candy in exchange for material favors. On the surface, teens using intermediary wish list services might think they're safe from predators, since wish list operators don't reveal the "wisher's" location. But, teens using personal websites often fail to realize that a predator can get their website owner address from the public domain. For adult admirers, the hope is often that their gifts will buy more than just photos. For example, a...
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