Parents and grandparents beware — online sexual predators are targeting children using social media apps and even online games like Roblox and Minecraft.
According to the FBI, the agency has seen a huge increase in the number of children predators have coerced into sending them explicit sexual images.
The agency said, “Sextortion can start on any site, app, or game where people meet and communicate. In some cases, the first contact with the criminal will be a threat. The person may claim to already have a revealing picture or video of a child that will be shared if the victim does not send more pictures. More often, however, this crime starts when young people believe they are communicating with someone their own age who is interested in a relationship or with someone who is offering something of value. The adult will use threats, gifts, money, flattery, lies, or other methods to get a young person to produce an image.”
The FBI says these predators use many different tactics to target children, including:
One person the FBI put in prison for this crime was a man in his 40s who worked as a youth minister so he could learn how teens talked to each other. Then, he created social media profiles where he pretended to be a teenage girl. This “girl” would start talking to boys online and encourage them to make videos.
Another person offered money and new smartphones to his victims.
In one case, the criminal threatened a girl, saying he would hurt her and bomb her school, if she didn’t send pictures.
Other cases start with the offer of currency or credits in a video game in exchange for a quick picture.
Ask your kids this
Experts suggest adults sit down and ask kids the following questions:
When you’re online, has anyone you don’t know ever tried to contact or talk to you?
What did you do or what would you do if that happened?
Why do you think someone would want to reach a kid online?
Make sure you explain to kids that anyone can pretend to be anything online and that they should block or ignore any message that comes from someone they don’t know in their everyday life.
It’s important to let kids know they will not be in trouble if it turns out they’ve fallen for any of these tricks and that they can always come to you for help.