U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Warn of Online Child Exploitation During COVID-19 Pandemic
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town and Federal Bureau of Investigation Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp, Jr. warn parents and caregivers of the dangers of online child sexual exploitation, especially during a time when children will have an increased online presence.
“Due to COVID-19, children are online more than ever increasing their susceptibility to dangerous predators lurking online,” Town said. “Parents are, and remain, the best first line of defense to the practice of digital and cyber hygiene and making certain that online predators cannot access our children. Stay safe at home. Stay safe online.”
“The internet, for all its benefits, also gives criminals and predators an easy way to reach young people,” Sharp said. “I want to encourage parents to have open and ongoing conversations about safe and appropriate online behavior and immediately report any inappropriate contact between an adult and your child to law enforcement.”
Every year thousands of children become victims of crime, whether through kidnappings, violent attacks, sexual abuse or online predators.
- In FY 2019, the FBI opened more than 3,070 Crimes Against Children cases, arrested more than 2,300 individuals involved in the sexual exploitation of children, and located and identified more than 2,450 child victims.
- In FY 2018, the FBI opened more than 3,175 Crimes Against Children cases, arrested more than 2,380 individuals involved in the sexual exploitation of children, and located and identified more than 2,670 child victims.
U.S Attorney Town and FBI SAC Sharp offer the following recommendations to help educate and prevent children from becoming victims of child predators and sexual exploitation during this time of national emergency:
Online Child Exploitation
- Discuss Internet safety with children of all ages when they engage in online activity.
- Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded.
- Make sure privacy settings are set to the strictest level possible for online gaming systems and electronic devices.
- Monitor your children’s use of the Internet; keep electronic devices in an open, common room of the house.
- Check your children’s profiles and what they post online.
- Explain to your children that images posted online will be permanently on the Internet.
- Make sure children know that anyone who asks a child to engage in sexually explicit activity online should be reported to a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult and law enforcement.
- Remember that victims should not be afraid to tell law enforcement if they are being sexually exploited. It is not a crime for a child to send sexually explicit images to someone if they are compelled or coerced to do so.
To report suspicious activity or instances of child sexual exploitation, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov. Reports can also be filed with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) or online at www.cybertipline.org.
For more information on the FBI’s guidance on child exploitation and protecting your kids visit https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/protecting-your-kids.