The number of annual reports for CyberTipline has grown rapidly from less than 10,000 in 1999 to over half a million in 2013, to over 1,000,000 in 2014; and to over 16 million in 2019 alone. While the number of reports has grown at an almost unimaginable rate in recent years, the amount of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM) has also spiked in recent years, especially during the Covid pandemic period.

If you regularly read CyberPurify blogs, you are probably familiar with the term Digital Footprint, which means that when your kids send or share sensitive photos/videos, they will exist permanently in the virtual world and there have been many cases where the victim is haunted into adulthood.

So why is online enticement getting so high during COVID? Find out now if you don’t want your child to be a victim!

Reports of online enticement increased by nearly 99%

The technological revolution of the past two decades has made the world a much more dangerous place for children, and the COVID pandemic adds to that danger.

According to a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), from January to the end of September 2020, online enticement reports increased by 98.66%, and CyberTipline reports increased by 63.31% year-on-year in 2019. CyberTipline is the place where Internet users report materials related to child sexual abuse (CSAM).

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Although the NCMEC was not able to directly determine whether COVID-19 was the cause of this spike, it is clear that there is a strong correlation between children and adolescents staying at home and online enticement reports. In addition, according to NCMEC, there is a lot of child pornography and this content is being shared and spread more and more by adults through chat groups and social networks.

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NCMEC received over 18 million CyberTipline reports containing 45 million images, videos, and content related to child sexual exploitation in 2018. In 2019, NCMEC received slightly fewer reports – less than 17 million – but these reports contain more than 69 million people suspected of sexually exploiting child images, videos, and related content.

Misconceptions about online predators

A common misconception is that online predators don’t just stop at looking at photos that victims provide them. After talking to children on the Internet, successfully enticing children to take sensitive selfies/videos (online sexual abuse), they aim to commit much more serious behavior – harming children in real life. These are sexual abuse, rape, other deviant sexual acts, and worse, kidnapping for ransom.

According to a study by the Federal Bureau of Crime, an average online predator lures 13.56 victims.

Sexual predators can be anyone, but most are male. Some have a criminal record, but most have no criminal record at all. The people who sexually assault your children online can be anyone: lawyers, doctors, teachers, policemen, etc. occupations you never expected. They are quite possibly law-abiding except that they are totally controlled and obsessed with the need to see or approach children.

Why online enticement is so high during COVID?

The number of online predators soars

As mentioned, online predators are obsessed with the need to see and reach children, and this unrelenting need has been severely impacted by the arrival of the epidemic, due to school closures, social distancing as well as suspending outside activities, they have less access to children in real life. From here, the predators become more desperate and capricious.

To become sexually aroused and satisfy their needs, they need new and more interesting child pornography. That’s why we’re starting to see spikes in online enticement behaviors. As evidenced by the first quarter of 2020, according to the NCMEC, online predators openly discussed the COVID pandemic as an opportunity to entice children unsupervised by adults to take sensitive selfies/videos of themselves.

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However, the recidivism rate is very high. Most violators will repeat this crime, even if they have been caught. The truth is that there are very few therapies and programs that have been shown to curb this type of criminal activity.

Therefore, sexual assault of children is a chronic, lifelong disease that does not change.

Children and adolescents’ urge to do “new” things

The increase to 98.66% in online enticement of children is not only due to the pandemic, but mainly due to the rise of technology. More online activities bring more opportunities for attackers to seduce. It is also due to the fact that more and more children use smartphones at an earlier age.

Staying at home often during a pandemic makes children feel bored and motivated to do something fresh and this is most likely the reason why they send inappropriate content to each other.

free porn blockerHowever, a child’s prefrontal cortex, which plays an important role in controlling temperament and personality, is not yet fully developed. Besides, at this age, your child will face fluctuating hormone levels, emotional changes that make your child not mature enough to manage these problems safely or wisely.

Lack of knowledge is also one of the main reasons. Many times kids don’t understand that they are underage, and if they are sending sensitive videos/photos this is technically called child pornography.

From here your child is prone to committing risky misbehaviors, and these misdeeds leave bad effects on your child and can last forever. Every time an image or video is accessed and shared, the image of the victim keeps circling the media, over and over. It will never stop!

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How can parents protect their children from online predators?

Communicate regularly with children about online dangers

Communication has always been one of the most effective ways to help minimize your child’s exposure to risky and dangerous behaviors. You should be up-to-date on exactly what risks children are exposed to online, negative trends in teen behavior, or what cyber attackers often have in common.

It is true that any app that allows children to chat with others is a potential place for online predators to attack your child. Aware before your child is in danger.

Besides, you need to show your child that you are a trustworthy friend where they can turn to you when they see something or meet someone online that bothers or worries them.

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Teach your kids digital skills

Because criminals are so ubiquitous on social media, they communicate and talk to minors in a variety of ways, so you need to help them understand that attackers can be anyone, any profession, so they should not talk to strangers online.

Teaching your child real-life skills will never be enough, to better protect your child, especially when both you and your child depend (a lot) on the Internet, you need to teach your child soft skills in the digital age, helping them better protect themselves and become a responsible citizen of the Internet. We also have internet safety tips for parents.

In addition, staying home and using the Internet regularly puts your child at a very high risk of exposure to pornography and other types of inappropriate content such as drugs, accidents, gore, terrorism, murder, etc. Therefore, many parents are now using free online content filtering tools to reduce the risk of their children accessing harmful content, but without infringing on their children’s online privacy.

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