The internet has been a bane and boon to humanity. While it has made the world a better place in many ways, it has unfortunately also become a hotbed for sexual abusers to target children. If your child is at risk of online sexual abuse, you must act quickly and protect them. In keeping with this, a San Francisco molestation attorney can provide helpful services and resources.

Unfortunately, the prevalence of online sexual abuse against children is rising, with predators using technology to target their victims. According to Interpol, roughly 15 percent of children ages 10-17 have received a sexual solicitation or approach over the internet.

So, what has caused the surge in online sexual abuse? Let’s delve deeper into the subject. We’ll also explore the impact of online sexual abuse and how we can reduce the growing risk.

1. Unfettered Internet Use

Unrestricted access to technology and the internet has been a critical factor. Children now have easy access to smartphones, tablets, and laptops, thus allowing them to explore online activities without supervision. Unfortunately, this has opened the door for predators to access children easily and pursue their twisted agendas.

Moreover, many households have devices with multiple users, allowing predators to blend in and pose as other family members. And did you know that over 90% of molested children know the perpetrators? This shows sexual predators are right among our children, lingering in the shadows and waiting for an opportunity to act.

As the internet becomes increasingly accessible, children are at greater risk of being exposed to explicit sexual content, being approached by predators, and engaging in risky activities. Case in point, the COVID-19 pandemic drastically increased screen time for children. With schools and businesses closed, children interacted more with people online, making them increasingly vulnerable to online sexual abuse.

2. Predator Tactics

Online predators have become more sophisticated in their tactics. For instance, they can create fake social media profiles and establish relationships with minors over time. By so doing, they gain their trust before asking for inappropriate photos or meeting in person.

They may also access live streaming sites, where unsuspecting children broadcast themselves or connect in video chats. This puts a child at extreme risk, as predators can use recordings to blackmail them into submission.

Some solicit sexual images or videos from minors in exchange for money or gifts. In extreme cases, they may even threaten to harm the children’s families or friends if they don’t comply. Or, they may use threats to coerce children into providing more sexual images.

This puts children in an unenviable position of either complying or facing public humiliation. And even when children comply, the molesters may still share the images or videos online, compounding their shame.

Others go to extreme extents, even monitoring children’s activities, such as tracking their location via GPS or bribing them to keep quiet. Still, many predators use other forms of manipulation to lure children into their web. Such deceptive tactics have ensnared many unsuspecting children.

3. Anonymity

Anyone can hide their identity online, making it difficult to track predators. This anonymity allows them to commit atrocities without the fear of being identified or caught.

Furthermore, children often lack the experience to identify potential threats and distinguish between safe and unsafe online behavior. As a result, they’re more vulnerable to abuse, as they cannot protect themselves against the malicious intent of sexual molesters.

Impact of Online Sexual Abuse on Children

Online sexual abuse can have a lasting impact on victims, as they may develop mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Imagine a child dealing with the shame and guilt of having their private images shared online. This can be traumatizing, to say the least.

In some cases, children may become withdrawn due to their traumatic experiences. Thus, their social lives and academic performance can suffer greatly.

Additionally, they may develop trust issues, making it hard to interact with people online and offline. It can also lead to substance abuse, depending on the severity of the incident – as the child looks for an escape from the pain and suffering.

They might also suffer from physical symptoms due to stress or trauma, including headaches and stomach aches. These can interfere with their daily activities and cause disorientation.

What Can We Do?

The physical, emotional, psychological, social, and economic toll of online sexual abuse isn’t something parents, guardians, law enforcers, and other stakeholders cannot take lightly. Here are some measures we can adopt to stem the tide of online sexual abuse:

  • Educate children on the risks associated with sharing images and videos online.
  • Support victims, listen to their stories, and create an environment where they can open up.
  • Create awareness of the dangers posed by online sexual predators.
  • Develop and implement policies on online sexual abuse and provide the appropriate resources to victims.
  • Work with law enforcement and other stakeholders to identify perpetrators and bring them to book.

We owe it to ourselves to ensure our children grow up in a safe online environment, free from the clutches of sexual predators. Only then can we be certain their future is secure. Sure, we can end online sexual abuse, but it will take our concerted effort to make it a reality.