Listen to this page! Narrated by Lilani
Child Sex Abuse Material (CSAM) – Offenders who create, distribute and watch CSAM act under the belief they will not get caught and that non-offending caregivers and parents of the victims will never know or see what is happening to their children. The victim may appear cooperative, if only for a split second. If this is the case, it often means the victim is tricked or coaxed into performing an incidental inappropriate act captured in photos or on video. CSAM often is created when the victim is unaware of the recording. For instance, a child is changing, and a babysitter cunningly captures the moment on video or in photos. Other times, a criminal takes over a device’s camera with malware then works diligently behind the scenes to capture incidental sexual material. The victim is completely unaware, or they are too young and do not understand the situation.
It may seem like a glimmer of hope to hear about technological tools like the Canadian Centre for Child Protection’s Project Arachnid, which has been developed to assist in detecting and removing inappropriate material on websites around the world. Regrettably, these efforts have had little-to-no impact as CSAM and exploitation reports have only been on the rise in the last few years. Memorializing and distributing the incident through images and videos creates additional layers of victimization and trauma.
Online Scams – Cyber-criminals are on the prowl for ways to scam people 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They never stop. There is a very diverse range of scams that are in existence. Many frauds use a mix of methods to occur, including the internet and offline tactics. For example, in-person meetings, phone calls, or communications that trick the respondent into downloading malware via pop-ups are popular. Another rudimentary scam is when a buyer never receives the product even after paying for it, usually on websites like Ebay where social credibility is used. An individual may also hire a stranger, their services are rendered but the services are subordinate, or the provider fails to deliver on their obligations. So, always be cautious and question any suspicious or too-good-to-be-true activity whenever online. Cyber-criminals may use fake profiles and pose as service providers or go to extreme lengths to write false reviews to seem more legitimate.
Criminals also use phishing emails, intimidating texts and robocalls, unbelievable online offers, contests or pop-ups. This is not an exhaustive list as new ways to trick people are constantly being invented. Most of the time, their goal is to get you to click on malware-infected links or attachments and share your personal or financial information so they can steal your identity or rob you. Sometimes cyber-criminals are not necessarily interested in your personal or financial information, but in taking over your device, its camera or looking for other things of value on it. Even well known sites, Craigslist and Sittercity, have criminals on them creating profiles and convincing the community members to render their services to care for our most vulnerable populations: seniors and children.
Exploitation – To obtain something of value selfishly for one’s own ends, CSAM, by using one’s authority and power is exploitation. Criminals groom their victims by giving them attention and manipulation. Asking the victim to be nice, to behave, to be silent and to trust the offender is very common. The criminal lies, if needed. Eventually, the victim is coaxed into performing sexualized acts on camera allowing the offender to capture the material. Hence, the criminals are nicknamed “Capers.” Once one sexually explicit photo is captured the criminal potentially uses blackmail or extortion to threaten the parents/guardians that the photos will not be sold or distributed to other pedophiles for a price. The criminal can threaten to post the material online but for a fee does not carry out that threat. If they get an explicit picture or video, it is a win in the eyes of the offender. They can take the CSAM then watch, save and distribute it for profit. The victim may never know the criminal has gathered this material because they are naïve, and permission or notice isn’t required.
Ignoring the child’s report
Advice for Parents and Caregivers
Appropriately discuss with children that bad people sometimes use mobile phone cameras to take photos and videos they should not take of kids. Sometimes bad photos can have detrimental consequences on their well-being. Parents and guardians need to build a comfort level with their children to discuss modern-day issues. Ideally, a child would go to their parents or guardians if they are uncomfortable with any interaction that involves photos or video.
Be reassuring and compassionate, thus, believe the child’s disclosure, demonstrate emotional support, show disapproval of the perpetrator and take action to remove or report the offender. Remember research indicates support helps a child’s well-being.
Avoid Oversharing and Maintain privacy
Children need to be careful and be instructed not to give out any identifying information such as an address or a phone number to strangers. Bad people may spend time grooming and building a relationship with a child. Then, as the relationship grows, they may exploit the child by capturing sexualized images of them in any manner they can. The young person is never to fulfil any inappropriate request.
If using a service booked online, reach out and (personally) talk to past clients of service providers. Be critical of online reviews and ratings. Remember that a scammer’s job is to fool you in believing online lies, which can be easy or extremely elaborate.
Reach out to NCMEC or CCCP to help get images/media removed
Both NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) and CCCP (Canadian Centre for Child Protection) run programs where they may act as a broker for requesting images be taken taken down. They run Cybertip in Canada and the US. These are clearinghouses for CSAM and other online harm reports regarding children.
Parents need to transform their digital literacy into digital fluency. Digital literacy is an understanding of how to use the tools and digital fluency is the ability to create something new with those tools. Parents need the initiative to stay up to date or risk being blindsided. Mothers and fathers need to understand and oversee the internet and any emerging technology and not the children.
Install and use parental control hardware and software correctly;
Ensure security software in home computers and other technology gadgets are up to date;
Ensure all privacy settings in devices used by children are set to the highest level;
Find out what their kids are doing online;
Get to know who their children are relating to online;
Get to know and play online games with children;
Learn about the new apps children have discovered; and,
Teach children how to block suspicious users.
Also – set up basic rules:
-Parents must approve all technology gadgets, and apps their children are using
-Screen-time should not exceed 2 hours daily
-Elementary-aged kids should access the internet in the company of parents
-Kids should not hide and use technology in the bedroom and other places
-Parents can ban tech if abuse of technology occurs
-Children must know why excess indulgence on the internet may expose them to online threats
Amuno, A. (17 February 2020). 4 parenting tips to help protect children against online sexual predators. Alpha & Technology. https://parentingalpha.com/4-parenting-tips-to-help-protect-children-against-online-sexual-predators/
Brubacher, S. P., Malloy, L. C., Lamb, M. E., & Roberts, K. P. (2013). How do interviewers and children discuss individual occurrences of alleged repeated abuse in forensic interviews? Applied cognitive psychology, 27(4), 443-450.
Button, M., Nicholls, C. M., Kerr, J., & Owen, R. (2014). Online frauds: Learning from victims why they fall for these scams. Australian & New Zealand journal of criminology, 47(3), 391-408.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. (n.d.). Child Sexual Abuse Material (CSAM): Overview. https://www.missingkids.org/theissues/csam