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Children's blogs are "a paedophile's dream", because of the insight they give into a child's life, habits and movements, forensic psychologist Rachel O'Connell warns.

Giving evidence before Scotland's Justice 1 Committee, she said: "This [blogging culture] is just a paedophile's dream because you have children uploading pictures, giving out details of their everyday life because it's an online journal," BBC Online reports.


Justice 1 is responsible for discussing questions of civil and criminal justice. The committee is considering creating a specific offence of "sexual grooming of a person under 16 by an adult". It is also looking at introducing 10-year jail terms for meeting children for sex.


O'Connell noted adults could subscribe to RSS feeds to be updated instantly with new pictures and information. Paedophiles could use this information to groom their potential victims, she suggested, adding that groups working together could even use information in blogs to arrange the abduction of a child.

Pauline McNeill, the Labour committee convener, said that O'Connell's evidence "takes it to a whole new dimension for us...I'm beginning to wonder if we've really begun to tackle the protection of children with the bill before us."

The vast majority of guidance to parents over child safety online is about chatrooms, but by their nature, blogs also put personal information in a very public space. So O'Connell is probably right to raise it as an issue, even if the situation is not quite as dire as she suggests.

Safety advice for chatrooms is largely common sense, and is transferrable. Parents need to be aware that their child might have a blog, and need to make sure their child knows to be careful about the kind of information they put on their site. As for RSS feeds, they pose no additional danger. Anyone with any interest in a blog - benign or malicious - can just as easily bookmark a page and check it regularly.

In related news, police in New Jersey this week arrested 39 people and charged them with possesion and online distribution of child pornography.

The suspects include a pediatric neurosurgeon, a lawyer and a high-school hockey coach and range in age from 14 to 61, Reuters reports.

The police used new child-porn detection technology, capable of tracing an image back to the hosting machine, to make the arrests. The material in showed the molestation and rape of a five-year-old girl from the state of Georgia.

The man in the video, James Bidwell, was convicted in 2002 of molesting and raping the five year old, and for distributing the video over the internet to Canada and England. He is serving a 45-year prison term. ®

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