All Children Vulnerable to Online Predators

Between the arrest of Brian Doyle, deputy press secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, and the testimony of a child pornography victim on Capitol Hill, the dangers of online predators have been major news this week.

Authorities say that's a good thing, and that parents can learn an important lesson from the headlines -- any child, even overachievers from healthy homes, can be lured into the underworld of child pornography from online predators.

"My experience is not as isolated as you might hope," Justin Berry, 19, said to a House committee. "This is not, as so many want to believe, the story of a few bad kids whose parents paid no attention. There are hundreds of kids in the United States alone who are right now wrapped up in this horror."

When he was 13, Berry was sent a free webcam by an online predator, and agreed to take off his shirt for $50. That seemingly innocent act started Berry down the seedy and dangerous path of online child pornography that culminated with him beginning his own online sex site.

Growing up, Berry lived with his mother, who thought she was attuned to her son. She also believed he was safe from online predators, having purchased Internet protection software and frequently having checked on him in his bedroom. She told Oprah Winfrey that if any parent should have known what was really going on, that it would have been her.

"That's what's so ironic is that this is what I actually did for a living, was work with kids that have been molested," Karen Berry said. "So of course, I have studied for years and I know the signs. That's why it's so mind-boggling that this happened to Justin right here in my own home."

Katherine Tarbox is familiar with Berry's case and countless others. She knows from firsthand experience how conniving online predators can be.

When Tarbox was 14 and at the top of her class, she was molested by an online child predator whom she had communicated with for six months.

"The word 'sex' was never mentioned," Tarbox said. "This guy played he was a confidant, my peer, somebody that cared about my well-being."

A decade later, Tarbox's mother, Andrea Tarbox, says she wishes she and her husband had questioned her daughter's mood changes and subtle changes in her behavior.

"For her to get enough sleep she was going to bed very early, so she could get up in the middle of the night when we were asleep and thought she was safely tucked in only to learn she was having conversations with him at that time in the morning," Andrea Tarbox said.

Authorities say online predators know what to look for and are skilled at manipulating the victims.

"They're not only very manipulative, they are also very good at finding a weakness in that child and exploit it," said Brad Russ of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. "They're looking for a kid starved for time, attention, love and affection."

Experts recommend parents take away their children's webcams and keep the computer out of the bedroom. They also say communication with children is key.

ABC News' David Muir reported this story for "Good Morning America."

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