For concerns about online sexual exploitation:
Technology can facilitate sexual exploitation of children. Offenders use social media (e.g. Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat), to identify young people whom they can groom.
When abusive images have been posted or shared online, there is little control over who can access them. This can lead to repeat victimisation. GPS technology can be used to pinpoint (within a few metres) where a photo was taken – revealing a victim’s location very easily.
A child can be sexually exploited through technology without even realising it. For example, a child or young person is persuaded to post or send images of themselves and these are then used as a bargaining tool by the offenders and threats of violence and intimidation are used as methods of coercion.
Offenders may use technology to exploit children and young people in the following ways:
- Harassment and bullying through text messaging.
- Purchasing mobile phones for victims and sharing their numbers among group or gang members.
- Randomly contacting children via social networking sites.
- Using ‘friends’ lists on networking sites of known victims to target children and young people.
- Viewing extreme or violent pornography and discussing it during sexual assaults.
- Posting images of victims with rival gang members to invite a sexual assault as punishment.
- Filming and distributing incidents of rape.
- Distributing Blackberry PIN numbers for lists of girls labelled as ‘easy’.
- Contacting and grooming children and young people through online gaming sites.
Research shows groomers do not always pose as children and a large percentage are honest about their age. It can take a very short time for some predators to arrange to meet their victim and this can involve the use of sophisticated, persuasive, language-based strategies to build trust rapidly.