Skip to main content

Project Safe Childhood

About Project Safe Childhood

In 2006, the Department of Justice launched Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue survivors.

What is Child Exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse perpetrated on children and youth, in which the survivors are forced, coerced, or enticed by an adult to engage in sexually explicit conduct. The survivors  come from all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. 

Child sexual abuse material is sexual exploitation that is defined as “any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor." Federal law prohibits the production, distribution, receipt, or possession of any image containing child sexual abuse material. The crime of producing photographs or video recordings of child sexual abuse or distributing/receiving/viewing child sexual abuse online is subject to federal prosecution.

How are Children Exploited Online?

  1. Children are abused and their abuse is recorded and shared on the internet via online forums, social networking sites, messaging apps, file sharing sites, or the “dark web.”
  2. Children are enticed online. Predators prey on children via internet-accessible platforms, including social media, messaging apps, and gaming systems, such as XBox or PlayStation.
    1. Children develop “a relationship” with someone online who convinces the child to share sexually explicit content of themselves.
    2. Children are “sextorted,” threatened by an individual with whom they have been “chatting” online. The predator seeks sexually explicit content in exchange for keeping quiet about a secret that was shared or, if the child has already shared a sexualized image of him or herself, the predator could threaten to blackmail the child if he or she does not share more content – content that is often required to be more sexual in nature.
    3. In some cases, predators do not entice children online only for sexual content, but in the hopes of enticing a child to meet in person to have sex with the child.

Once an image or video is disseminated via the internet or text message, it can be difficult if not impossible to retrieve. Millions of sexual predators are continuously sharing and swapping child sexual abuse material across the globe. It is uploaded, downloaded, texted and instant messaged at rapid speeds. For information about removing online nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit photos and videos taken before you were 18, visit

Additional Resources

U.S. Department of Justice Resources 

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children 

Updated April 15, 2024