Image Credit: Amanda Ghessie/Independent Journal Review
It’s easier than ever for young children to view adult content on the internet, which also means online predators have more access to their prey. Unfortunately, the tools they use are becoming increasingly more effective.
That’s why Sgt. James Spurlock, a sheriff’s deputy in Loudoun County, Virginia, spends many mornings speaking to middle schoolers and teenagers about the risks of interacting with strangers on the internet.
Back in 2014, Sgt. Spurlock explained to the Loudoun Times-Mirror just how it easy it has become for predators to target children:
“There’s more people on the Internet in the world than there’s ever been and as technology becomes easier and cheaper, it ends up in the hands of people that couldn’t have afforded it 10 or 15 years ago”
“It puts more young people into technology. It puts more access to predators who 20 years ago had no access to them and can now simply sit on their computer at home or in an Internet cafe or Starbucks and reach out and talk to hundreds of kids with no real effort.”
Adults will use video games, message boards, or social media to message children they don’t know in an attempt to sexually exploit them later.
According to a The Washington Post article, Sgt. Spurlock explained that child abusers call this technique “bunny hunting.”
Sgt. Dale Spurlock was at the Loudoun Crime Commission meeting today to discuss Summer Crime Prevention.Sgt. Spurlock…
The reality is, this generation of kids faces real life consequences at a much younger age. Sexting, naked selfies, and cyber-bullying can lead to serious life-changing events.
In one of his school assemblies, the 26-year law enforcement veteran addressed 11- and 12-year-olds and asked them:
“If someone threatened you online or sent you something inappropriate, how many of you would immediately go tell your parents?”
A majority of the children kept their hands down.
That’s because kids fear that their parents won’t believe them, or that they will take their computers or phones away.
In order to address this problem, Sgt. Spurlock also works with parents to make sure that they better understand these issues. To the parents, he cites situations where teens killed themselves or were murdered after being exploited online.
To the children, he uses softer, but still frightening stories about teens whose lives were damaged by online exploitation. In one example, he talks about former Miss Teen USA Cassidy Wolf, whose webcam was hacked, resulting in naked pictures of her getting posted online:
“Forever, this will follow her, because there’s no way to know where those pictures went.”
What she found was truly disturbing.
Countless men and women, sometimes twice Amanda’s claimed age, sent naked pictures to her and tried to get her to do the same.
The app has no real age verification process, thus allowing this kind of activity:
And the sad truth is that even after explicitly saying that I was sixteen years old, I was still propositioned by men sometimes twice my age.
Long story short: Users can be whoever they want to be, however old they want to be, and can talk to whomever they want to talk to.
Kik is just one of many ways children can be exploited online without parents even knowing.
In the end, Sgt. Spurlock explains just how common these crimes are:
“One in 5 of you will be a victim before you turn 18. One in 5.”
It’s not just creepy old men in basements—it could be anyone. Police officers, teachers, judges, even high profile spokespeople like Subway spokesman Jared Fogle.
It’s extremely important that children, teens, as well as parents know the consequences and dangers that exist on the internet. You cannot shelter your children forever, but an ounce of care can be a life saver.