Prevent Online Grooming
Covid-19 has made online grooming and exploitation especially prevalent.
Just since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as children in New Jersey stayed home and spent more time on devices, online exploitation by predators increased by over 200%! From March 1 through May 23, 2020, the NJ Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force received 2,380 reports from the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children—up from 760 reports in 2019 during the same time period. Although not every report was of a predator victimizing a child, the overall online exploitation numbers more than doubled, illustrating the underlying risks to children and teens of spending more time online.
Know the terms of online exploitation.
Grooming is the act of someone building a relationship, trust, and emotional connection with a child or young person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Children and young people who are groomed can be sexually abused, exploited or trafficked.
(Source: National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children)
Sextortion is an online exploitation crime directed towards children in which non-physical forms of coercion are used, such as blackmail, to acquire sexual content from the child, engage in sex with the child, or obtain money from the child.
(Source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
If you see something that you think might mean a child is a victim of online exploitation, report it to the Cyber Tipline or call for help.
How to keep children safe from online predators.
Follow these 7 steps to help keep your child(ren) and family safe and informed about online exploitation.
Remind children to only interact online and on gaming apps with people they know and trust in the real world.
Let children tell you about what they love about their games and online lives, and allow them to enjoy all that is good about apps, games and online. This will help make a conversation about the concerns of online grooming easier to have.
Warn children not to accept gaming dollars (e.g. V-bucks for the game “Fortnite”) from people they don’t know and trust. Predators will later come back and say “now you owe me.”
Review which location markers are visible on children’s devices, and remove any except the essential ones. Consider products to help monitor some of your children’s activity.
Reduce shame in conversations with children. If they have shared CSAM (Child Sexual Abuse Material) of themselves, they were manipulated in order to do so. Shame is a method traffickers use to further manipulate, so be supportive instead of blaming the child.
Make sure you and your child know what to do if they find themselves in an exploitative situation. Look into organizations like NCMEC who can help.
Spend “device-free” time with your family to boost everyone’s serotonin levels, and help children feel good without needing to get “likes” on social media.
Online Safety Resources
Access our latest report around identifying and combating online exploitation.