Increasingly sophisticated technology is making detecting and fighting computer and mobile device child exploitation more and more challenging for law enforcement agencies at home and abroad.  B.A.C.E. (Businesses Against Child Exploitation) highlights the specific challenges posed by technology and offers suggestions on how to spot Internet child exploitation.

The Dark Side Of The Internet

It’s become almost a game of one “upmanship.”  No sooner do law enforcement agencies here in the United States and around the globe answer the high tech challenge of Internet child exploitation, only to be countered by more insidious technology used by predators to target children for illegal and disgusting purposes.  Two recent publications illustrate the on-going battle.

Writing in the News & Observer, Asbury Park Press reporter Katie Park’s February 2018 story is just one illustration of how police are employing new technology in the fight against child pornography.

Likewise, an April 2017 feature story, published on the web page of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, showcases that hardly a day goes by when federal charges are not filed against someone using the Internet to bring harm to our kids.  And the headlines point to the flourishing use of technology, mobile devices, social media and other platforms used by criminals to perpetrate their crimes.

Precisely the reason behind the 2016 formation of B.A.C.E., whose core mission is to support and raise funds for law enforcement, enabling them to be fully engaged in this tit-for-tat high tech battle.  So beyond the technology itself, comes the question:  what are the best ways to spot the signs and signals of online exploitation?

A Global Issue

Child exploitation knows no borders and works around the clock.  One of Great Britain’s most reputable child advocacy organizations, The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) has an extensive web page detailing the forms of child exploitation, programs that have been developed to combat it, how to spot signs of it, and partnerships with volunteers and community organizations to help put a stop to it.

WeAreThorn, provides a glimpse of how once such agency, dedicated to the protection of children, is employing the latest use of technology to neutralize and deter the use of the Internet for exploitive purposes.  They have several blogs on their web page on how that fight is being waged both in the U.S. and on an international basis.

Closer to home, we as parents need all the tools and resources available to keep radar up for signals that our children, and the children we know in our communities, may be the targets of exploitation.  Here are some suggested tips on keeping eyes open and ears to the ground to help fight back.

One such resource is Bernardo’s (Great Britain) which features a series of information videos designed for children, adults, and professionals who work with children on picking up the telltale signs of child sexual exploitation.

StarGuidesWilderness features a condensed outline to help parents pick up on indications something is wrong.  They include monitoring your own children, friends of your children and other children in your community for the following red flags:

  • Unexpected changes in a child’s emotional behavior and stability, to include sudden mood swings, extreme highs or devastating lows.
  • A child’s physical health, including being on the lookout for sudden weight losses or gains, unexplained physical injuries, indications of substance abuse, other self-harming behavior and casual or flippant mentions of suicide.
  • Changes in a child’s relationship behavior with parents, siblings, close childhood friends and other children in extended social circles.
  • Sudden changes or differences in academic focus at school, or sudden classroom behavioral issues that did not exist before.

A previous B.A.C.E. blog dated 2/12/18, offered a few additional tips on how to spot the possibility that Internet child exploitation may have come to visit your doorstep, including:

  • Your child rushing to close computer screens when you come near, almost as if they had their hand in the cookie jar as toddlers.
  • A sudden desire to spend more and more time on the computer, out of your sight, or the acquisition of new cell phones or mobile devices that you, as a parent, have not purchased for them.
  • Your child is evasive about their whereabouts when out of the house (perhaps setting up a face-to-face meeting with someone they’ve met online, in a chat room or other social media contact).

Further tips on how to spot Internet child exploitation may likewise be found on two additional B.A.C.E. blogs:

Internet Crimes That Target Children: What You Need To Know

Three Tips To Ensure Cyber Safety