Young lured by Net dating, child porn

People in the 15 to 29 age bracket are the most likely members of Japanese society to use Internet dating sites and to view child pornography, according to the results of a Cabinet Office survey.

More than one-third of males and almost a third of females in this age bracket said they have accessed Internet dating sites, while more than one-fifth of males said they had accessed child pornography.

The survey constituted an effort to garner public opinion on issues such as child prostitution and child pornography for future policymaking purposes.

The move came amid a surge in crimes related to Internet dating sites, as well as a global drive by the United Nations and other organizations to protect children’s rights.

The nationwide survey was conducted between Aug. 8 and Aug. 18 among 5,000 people aged 15 and older chosen at random.

Valid responses were given by 3,247, or 64.9 percent, of those quizzed, with nearly 82.4 percent of the respondents aged 30 or older.

Easy mobile phone access and the guarantee of user anonymity have combined to make Internet dating sites popular in Japan.

But Net-related crimes have also spiraled, with some users — especially women — subjected to rape, extortion, robbery and even murder.

Just 12.8 percent of the survey respondents as a whole said they have accessed Internet dating sites.

But 36.8 percent of males under 20 and 29.6 percent of their female counterparts, along with 48.2 percent of males in their 20s and 33.3 percent of their female counterparts, said they have accessed sites of this kind.

Of those who said they have used online dating sites, 55.1 percent said they have contacted others via e-mail, text messages or phone calls, or have actually met someone.

Some 59.7 percent of survey respondents said they disapprove of the use of such sites by children under 18, while 34.7 percent of male minors and 44.4 percent of female minors expressed similar views.

Around 90 percent of respondents said they were aware of the increase in Internet-related crimes targeting children.

Although 80.5 percent of all respondents said that possession of child pornography for noncommercial purposes should be regulated, 63.2 percent of male minors expressed this view.

Some 23.2 percent of male minors also said they have accessed child pornography, compared with 9.1 percent of respondents as a whole.

The Law for Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child Pornography and for Protecting Children currently only penalizes those in possession of child pornography for commercial purposes.

The number of young victims of Internet dating crime has risen in recent years, according to the National Police Agency.

Of the 692 victims of crime related to Internet dating sites recorded in the first half of 2002, 88.2 percent were minors.

Among the latter, 49.6 percent were high school students and 25.3 percent were junior high school students, the official said.

The first half of the year saw 793 crimes tied to Internet dating sites, exceeding the 721 cases recorded in 2001 as a whole. In 2000, there were 102 Net dating-related crimes.