This sounds like a script that’s straight out of a television crime series: Middle-aged man poses as a young celebrity in attempt to solicit the attention of kids and teens online. The truth is sometimes stranger than fiction though, and this story demonstrates a good reason for parents to familiarize themselves with their children’s internet use. In the age of tablets, smartphones, and small screens, it’s become more difficult than ever to track online behavior.
Read on for the background behind this unnerving story as well as tips for teaching children and teenagers about safe internet use.
10. Over 900 Charges
A 42-year-old man has been charged with over 900 child sex offenses after he allegedly posed as Canadian singer Justin Bieber online. The Australian man was impersonating the pop star in order to obtain explicit images from internet users 16 years old and younger, according to the Queensland Police Service.
9. Horrendous Offenses
“The breadth of offenses committed in this instance are frankly horrendous,” Queensland Detective Inspector Jon Rouse said. “This investigation demonstrates both the vulnerability of children that are utilizing social media and communication applications and the global reach and skill that child sex offenders have to groom and seduce victims,” he added.
8. Victims Around The World
Queensland Police said that the offender’s victims included dozens of Bieber fans in Australia, the United States, and Britain. The suspect has not been identified by name. He was already facing charges in Queensland State of possessing material exploiting children, as well as charges for using the internet to entrap children under 16.
7. Back To 2007
Having already faced previous charges, the Australian man now faces a total of 931 additional criminal charges. The new charges include rape, indecent treatment of children, and the creation of child exploitation material. Queensland Police said that the 42-year-old had been creating such materials for at least the past decade.
6. Social Media
The police raided the suspect’s home after he refused to give them access to his various social media accounts. The investigators examined his personal computer and were able to find evidence that he was using social networks like Facebook and Skype to communicate with his victims around the world.
5. Bieber Fans Beware
The police have said that it’s imperative for parents of Justin Bieber fans to be vigilant. Of course, it’s always been imperative for parents to pay attention to their children’s internet use. This particular case just serves as a chilling example of exactly how far things can go.
4. About Argos
Detectives and staff with the Task Force Argos unit have become well-known for their work investigating these kinds of crimes. The unit was founded in 1997 to investigate child abuse ordered by a governor’s inquiry. The group works closely with international counterparts, and their specialist is also the chair of a group at Interpol.
3. Impersonation And The Law
With the exception of very specific instances, it’s not necessarily against the law to impersonate someone. Specific offenses that are against the law include impersonating a law enforcement official or a lawyer. It is difficult, however, to impersonate someone without then committing a criminal or civil offense as a result.
2. A Growing Problem
Today’s ubiquitous access makes online impersonation a growing problem, especially on social networks. Most social media sites have anti-impersonation policies, making it possible remove fake profiles and pages. In cases like this, though, it’s an issue that runs much deeper than just fake aliases or playing pretend.
1. The Vulnerability Of Children
“This investigation demonstrates both the vulnerability of children that are utilizing social media and communication applications, and the global reach and skill that child-sex offenders have to groom and seduce victims,” Rouse said in a statement. “The fact that so many children could believe that they were communicating with this particular celebrity highlights the need for a serious rethink about the way that we as a society educate our children about online safety.”
Make sure to share this story with friends and family, especially those who have children of their own or work in childcare. It’s also a good idea to familiarize yourself with the warning signs of child abuse. Signs include a child who is withdrawn or refuses to participate in activities, as well as children who are unusually aggressive or hostile. Other warning signs include unusual knowledge of sexual matters, as well as sexualized behavior around adults or other children. Lastly, it’s best to approach any discussions of this nature with non-accusatory language, giving the child or teen less reason to be defensive.