How often have you felt distracted, occupied, or even disconnected from those in your household, and not think it was a big deal? Pay attention parents! You may think that your children are safer now than ever because of the stay-at-home order and travel restrictions, but in reality, they are more susceptible to an even greater crime that has recently flourished – online predators.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, children have been spending most of their time unsupervised online. Virtual classes, gaming, and social media platforms have made it easy for sexual predators to coerce children, making them more at risk to child exploitation, abuse, and cybersex trafficking. Kids are yearning for interaction and new friendships, and predators are taking advantage of children who are vulnerable due to boredom and isolation.
The Internet Watch Foundation’s (IWF) 2020 annual report identified the growing trend of children being targeted by criminal sex predators and the harmful material that is shared and distributed worldwide.
- Number of images where victims were female was 93%
- 64% of cases of self-generated child sexual abuse, victims were ages 11-13
- 153,369 URLs which displayed child sexual abuse imagery appeared across 5,590 domains and were traced to 59 countries (13% increase from 2019)
The days of children being bribed with candy to lure them to a car is behind us. Predators are becoming more creative and using technology to tempt kids with the promise of friendship, relationships, money, and gifts. Using popular apps make it convenient for predators to reach out to children, without their parents knowing. But that’s not all. These apps all have a few things in common, including the ability track location, exchange photos and videos, live stream, hide content, and send and receive messages.
Top 15 Apps Used by Online Predators:
- Hot or Not
But it’s not only predators you have to watch out for! Many are facing the challenges of COVID-19 and its economic consequences, leading them to do unimaginable things. Unemployment rates have increased substantially, leading children and their families to depend upon other methods of income.
Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM), is defined as the crime of sexual abuse and exploitation of a minor, involving images and videos being shared across the internet, essentially pornography. The impacts it has on a child goes much further than the hands-on abuse they suffered; they carry this humiliation with them for the rest of their life.
National PTSD Awareness Month
A survey done by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection stated that the recording of the sexual abuse of a child has a significant, lifelong impact on the victim. Images and videos of the abuse may still be in possession of the abuser and readily available for the public to access. Ultimately, this has severe negative impacts on victims, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and can follow them to adulthood. This exposes them to difficulty with managing day-to-day stressors, maintaining healthy relationships, and excelling in all endeavours.
June is National Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Awareness Month. Netsweeper is kicking off this month by raising awareness about issues related to online sex predators and the effects of PTSD that victims are suffering from. Here at Netsweeper, we believe in the importance of making the internet a safer place for children and protecting them from harmful online content. Join us as we continue to fight against child exploitation and provide web filtering platforms to ensure digital safety for all.
For more blog posts related to child exploitation, take a look at these:
- What can be done to stop child exploitation?
- Keeping Children Safe Online – The Importance of Web filtering in Today’s Unregulated World
- Netsweeper and the IWF Tackling Online Child Exploitation
If you have information about the online sexual exploitation of a child or come across illegal material, inform your local police or report it to Cybertip.ca.
Submitted by: Natasha Pande