Learn about online enticement, what red flags to look out for, and how to protect your young person against being exploited online.
Online enticement involves an individual communicating with someone believed to be a child via the internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction.
This is a broad category of online exploitation and includes sextortion, in which a child is being groomed to take sexually explicit images and/or ultimately meet face-to-face with someone for sexual purposes, or to engage in a sexual conversation online, or in some instances, to sell/trade the child’s sexual images. This type of victimization takes place across every platform: social media, messaging apps, gaming platforms, etc.
The most common tactics used to entice children seem to be engaging in sexual conversation/role playing, and asking the child for sexually explicit images of themselves or mutually sharing images. Certain online behaviors may increase the risk for victimization, including lying about being older in order to access certain platforms and sending explicit photos or videos (known as “sexts”) of oneself to another user.
The goals of online enticement vary, but most commonly offenders seem to want to extort additional sexually explicit images from the child.
Online Enticement Stats
- 97.5% increase in reports of online enticement received by NCMEC in 2020 versus 2019. The number of reports increased from 19,100+ to 37,800+ reports.
- In a NCMEC analysis:
- 78% of reported victims were girls
- 13% were boys
- In 9% of the reports, gender was unknown
- 98% of reported offenders were seemingly unknown to the child offline.
Red Flags of Online Enticement
The most common tactics to entice children include:
- Engaging in sexual conversation/role-playing as a grooming method, rather than a goal.
- Asking the child for sexually explicit images of themselves or mutually sharing images.
- Developing a rapport through compliments, discussing shared interests or “liking” their online post, also known as grooming.
- Sending or offering sexually explicit images of themselves.
- Pretending to be younger.
- Offering an incentive such as a gift card, alcohol, drugs, lodging, transportation, or food.
Red Flags of Sextortion
Those involved in the sextortion of children often:
- Approach a child on social media after using it to learn about the child’s interests, friends, school, family, etc.
- Intentionally move their communications with the child from one online platform to another (e.g., moving from social media to private video chat or messaging apps)
- Use tactics to coerce a child, including:
- Reciprocation (“I’ll show you, if you show me”)
- Initially offering something to the child, such as money or drugs, in exchange for sexually explicit photos/videos
- Pretending to work for a modeling agency to obtain sexual images of the child
- Developing a bond with the child by establishing a friendship/romantic relationship
- Secretly recording sexually explicit videos of the child during video chats
- Physically threatening to hurt or sexually assault the child or the child’s family members
- Using multiple online identities to contact a child
- Pretending to be younger and/or a member of the opposite sex
- Accessing the child’s online account without authorization and stealing sexual images or videos of the child
- Threatening to create sexual images or videos of the child using digital-editing tools
- Threatening to commit suicide if the child does not provide sexual images or videos
- Saving sexually explicit conversations with the child and threatening to post them online
How to Talk About Online Sexual Exploitation
Children and adolescents may not take the first steps in disclosing to you an uncomfortable online interaction. If during this discussion you hear something that is startling to you, try to react calmly and continue listening. Remember, it is not the child who is at fault. Together you can report the incident to the CyberTipline.
Ask Your Young Person
- Has anyone ever tried talking to you online about inappropriate or sexual things? What did you do?
- Do you trust all of your online friends? Are there any people you should unfriend or block?
- Do you know how to report, flag, or block people on the websites and apps you use? Can you show me?
- Who would you talk to if you were upset by a request you received online?
- You have the right to say “NO” to anyone who talks about or asks you to do something that makes you uncomfortable, even if it’s someone you know.
- Someone who pressures you to talk about or do something sexual online is not someone you should trust.
- Block, unfriend, or report anyone sending an unwanted sexual request.
- Talk to a friend or an adult you trust if you get upset about a sexual request. Sometimes just talking about it can help.
- Be very careful about meeting offline. You should get a caregiver’s permission first, take them or another trusted adult with you, and meet and stay in a public place.
What To Do if Your Young Person Has Experienced Online Exploitation
There has been a 97.5% increase in reports of online enticement received by NCMEC in 2020. NCMEC has operated the CyberTipline, to provide the public and electronic service providers with the ability to report suspected child sexual exploitation, including online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to children, misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the internet. After NCMEC’s review is completed, the CyberTipline report is made available to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
Explore More About Protecting Your Young Person Against Online Enticement
Learn how to help protect your preteen or teen online. BLOOM is here to help, whether you are looking for tips on talking with your kids about internet safety, tech security tips to protect them online, or even in-depth and personalized Q&As and workshops. Raising young people is hard enough. We are here to help demystify and provide support!
This article was originally published on NetSmartz and only minimally edited for clarity. Read the article in its original publication.
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