In the last decade, technological advancements have given us the ability to create a connection with anyone in the world with teenagers averaging 27 hours per week online, according to The Telegraph.
The rate technology is advancing at makes it easier for online predators to exploit children through the use of chat rooms, social sites and forums.
The issue of online child exploitation is encountered so frequently that about 2 million children are subject to online exploitation every year, as estimated by UNICEF. To put an end to this industry, government officials and the general public need to work together to implement a plan that prevents these crimes.
Representatives from Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have joined forces last week with both the U.K. Home Office and the U.S. Department of Security to attack internet predators.
As reported by CNN, the U.S. and the U.K. are the nations that are most heavily plagued by the issue of online child exploitation, and the U.K. Home Office and the U.S. Department of Justice are working diligently to put an end to the crimes. But the issue is occurring so heavily they cannot do it alone.
The U.S. Department of Security funds 61 task forces dedicated to Internet Crimes Against Children and have also delegated 93 attorney offices to the prosecution of predators. The U.K. has also worked to end these crimes by funding a $26.38 million special undercover project to expose predators.
Parents must be vigilant in monitoring their children’s internet usage in today’s age of technology. Parents need to recognize the prevalence of this issue and that new technology can cause children to not be safe even in their own homes. We can empower children through educating them on ways to identify suspicious behavior and how to assess a website’s security.
Classrooms also need to begin heavily implementing internet safety into their curriculum. If schools put a heavier focus on internet safety in classroom curriculum, children whose internet activity is not monitored by parents at home will still have some familiarity with how to stay safe online.
According to The Barnardo’s Report, the age of children who are exposed to online exploitation is getting younger, so early intervention is crucial.
While there are extensive efforts to end the online exploitation of children, there are obstacles that make the process extremely complex. Those who prey on children online exist in every state, country and continent in the world, and international crimes require international attention from lawmakers.
While technology advancements are what makes it easier for predators to prey on children, it also can be the weapon that can be used to terminate the issue in its entirety. New technology allows security companies to detect digital fingerprints and determine where a predator is located. Sites must use this information to remove all material that can lead to potential crimes.
The online exploitation of children is a $20 billion industry, as reported by the New York Times. Online predators who pose as someone other than themselves are a real threat to children and it is our policymakers’ and society’s duty to protect them and take down these criminals.
Samantha Moffett is a sophomore majoring in mass communications.