More self-produced material is being shared on social media
The fact that adults with sexual interest in children would choose to approach these young victims on social media is not a new concept. What has changed in recent years is the quantity of social platforms and how easy, quick and ‘private’ it has become to share images and videos via mobile phones and tablet computers.
Most recently, a BBC investigation found a number of secret groups on Facebook that were created by and run for paedophiles to post and swap obscene images of child sexual abuse.
One of the reasons may be due to the fact that the computer shared by the family no longer resides in the kitchen or the living room. Nowadays, many children have their own smartphone, tablet or laptop, which they can take into their bedroom, out of sight from parental supervision.
Self-produced images and videos, more commonly known as ‘selfies,’ have become the norm. Youngsters who engage in this social sharing ritual would happily publicise their lives on Facebook, Instagram and other social platforms, in exchange for social endorsement and ‘likes’ from their followers.
It is very probable that the regular posting on social media has normalised the image-sharing behaviour among young people, who do not see any danger in sending a picture of themselves to strangers. Many are unaware of the risk for blackmail, which can lead to these young people ultimately abusing themselves. Whether they recognise it or not is also questionable.
Policing child sexual abuse material on social media
A large number of the police officers in our research suggests that more material is being shared on social media networks. Most of these are produced by the children themselves
“Most [of the] new child exploitation images are created from social media such as Stickcam, Omegle, Oovoo, and others. The suspects are simply using video capture software to create the digital videos.”
“[There are] many more self-made videos, for example [recorded on] Skype chats.”
“Actually there is much more material obtained by the modus operandi of grooming. For example, through WhatsApp, Omegle, SnapChat, among other social networks.”
“The increased usage of web based instant messaging services such as KIK, Snapchat, tango, etcetera has increased the sharing of child sexual abuse material.”
Young people need better education on the dangers of child sexual exploitation. But help can also come from the wider community. Schools, businesses and Wi-Fi providers in hotels, shops and public service organisations can keep a closer eye on illegal content that crosses their corporate networks, and report these to the authorities.
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