Epoch Cinema Documentary Review: ‘Vulnerable Innocence’

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Commentary

I recently talked to someone I know who used to be a teacher of young kids at a local school, and he told me a concerning account of his experiences there. Whenever he would conduct a class, he’d have the kids line up in the hallway and ask them to hand their cell phones (or other devices) over to him before they entered, since he didn’t allow them in his classroom.

He said virtually all of the kids carried some type of device and would have their faces practically glued to their screens, right up to the time they had to turn them over. Whenever the teacher’s classes would end, he’d go to the door to hand the devices back to the students, and the first things the kids would do is turn their devices back on and resume gluing their faces to them.

People have indeed become increasingly reliant on technology, particularly handheld devices such as cell phones. However, when it comes to children (who don’t have the life experiences to make informed decisions) entering the online world via their cell phones, tablets, computers, etc., things can rapidly spin out of control and lead to some very dangerous situations. Simply put, children are especially vulnerable to online predators.

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Two children use a laptop in “Vulnerable Innocence.” (Internet Sense First)

Director and producer Charlene Doak-Gebauer’s 2021 documentary, “Vulnerable Innocence,” is an educational film that not only shows us how easy it is for children to fall prey to online predators, but also what parents can do to counter this unfortunate fact and become much more proactive in this brave new digital age.

Interestingly, the film opens up similarly to some of the Hollywood horror/thriller movies (or TV shows) we see advertised these days. In a reenactment, two children are alone at home in front of a laptop. They’re talking with someone they assume is another child, since that’s the picture that is displayed on-screen. As the seemingly innocent conversation unfolds, the supposed boy on the screen shrewdly extracts all sorts of information from the two children, such as their names, where they live, what school they attend, etc.

The scene then switches to an older man who is sitting in his house on his computer and is using a voice filter to sound like the picture (another filter) of the boy he is hiding behind. With these two simple filters, he is able to dupe the two children.

In another reenactment, a 13-year-old girl is home alone when she meets a man online who purports to be a “dance instructor.” He tells her that he can provide her with opportunities to get into entertainment if she is willing to do some lewd things for him. Since she isn’t wise enough to recognize an online predator, she obliges.

Although these reenacted scenes are very disquieting, they are also a highly effective way to begin the film.

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“Vulnerable Innocence.” (Internet Sense First)

Charlene Doak-Gebauer posits that since children “share everything online,” digital parenting is a powerful tool that can help to prevent dangerous situations (such as the scenario above) from happening in the first place. “We have to digitize our traditional parenting skills,” Doak-Gebauer insists.

What makes it even more incumbent on parents to protect their children from online predators is the fact that it is often very challenging for law enforcement to track down child predators and human traffickers.

As Jeremy Spence, a retired detective sergeant in the Child Exploitation Unit of the Ontario Canada Police, points out, many of these criminals utilize the dark web. While the regular internet is indexed and readily accessible, the dark web has many layers of encryption (what is called “the onion”) that people can hide behind. They can also mask their IP addresses by using virtual private networks (VPNs) and proxy servers.

The documentary goes on to interview various people from around the world and shows how the exploitation and trafficking of children is not only a global issue, but a quickly growing one. It provides some valuable tools for parents that can help them combat this insidious problem.

I thought that the film’s interviews were informative, insightful, and sometimes tragic (in the case of former child exploitation victims). There is also a great deal of actionable information here, so this film isn’t just about identifying the numerous problems through awareness, but how these issues can be dealt with.

It was also good to see that this film had a more balanced approach when it came to gender. Males are often the victims of online predators, not just females.

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A male victim recounts his horrible experiences in “Vulnerable Innocence.” (Internet Sense First)

One male interviewee said that when his parents became aware of him being sexually exploited by a predator (who turned out to live right in their neighborhood), they totally rejected him. Men and boys are often shunned by their families and by society for being victimized, which feeds into the exploding worldwide male suicide epidemic that is likewise largely ignored.

“Vulnerable Innocence” is a highly informative documentary brought to you by EpochTV that effectively raises awareness around online child exploitation and trafficking. It does have some disturbing themes and reenactments, so parental guidance is advised.

Watch “Vulnerable Innocence” on Epoch Cinema here.

Directors: Charlene Doak-Gebauer, Nancy Lynch
Running Time: 1 hour, 14 minutes
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: 2021
Rated: 4.5 stars out of 5

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Ian Kane

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Ian Kane is an U.S. Army veteran, author, filmmaker, and actor. He is dedicated to the development and production of innovative, thought-provoking, character-driven films and books of the highest quality.



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