Cyber criminals coercing children in their own bedrooms

A large amount of child abuse material is made in a victim’s own home through devices and games, prompting calls for technology companies to do more to stop criminals.

One in eight reports of child sexual abuse material involved criminals coercing children via a webcam or smartphone, according to new analysis by the eSafety Commissioner.

Investigators reviewed 1300 pieces of material as part of the study and found at least one quarter had been made within a child’s own home.

Some 16 per cent was within their own bedroom, five per cent from a living room and the rest from a bathroom.

However, the true amount produced at home is likely to be far higher as often the background is obscured or cropped out, according to eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant.

She said perpetrators contacted children through direct messaging features in online games or social media and groomed them to perform sexually explicit acts.

“Even in the safety and sanctity of your home, online predators can infiltrate your child’s world through smart devices, masquerading as children of a similar age or as an overly sympathetic adult,” Ms Inman Grant said.

About 86 per cent of material in the study featured pre-pubescent children and 88 per cent of victims were girls.

Images were by far the most common type, followed by videos.

Ms Inman Grant has stepped up calls for technology companies to stop the creation and spread of child abuse material.

“Industry can and must do more to prevent their platforms, services and devices from being weaponised by criminals targeting children,” she said.

“Piecemeal action by only a few tech players won’t cut it.

“Everyone has a role to play because it’s a network of online interactions that permits this deeply harmful and abusive content to spread at its current pace, scale and volume.”

Ms Inman Grant said investigators even reviewed content that involved children being told to remove their clothes and perform acts while their parents in the next room called them in for dinner.

“Online predators brainwash the child into thinking the adults in their life will punish them, blame them or not believe them. The child is made to feel terrified and utterly alone,” she said.

“This profound sense of isolation and fear is not only debilitating in the short-term for the child but can have significant, long-term mental health impacts.”

She urged parents to alert their children from a very early age that they should tell them if someone asks for a photo without their clothes on.

She also suggested devices only be used in open areas of a home, parents regularly review privacy settings and families set rules around which devices and apps can be used at certain times.

Last week, the federal government decided against compelling online users to verify their age on pornography sites, sparking concerns it could make it easier for children to access adult material.

The eSafety Commissioner had recommended a pilot program of age assurance technology, but Communications Minister Michelle Rowland said she was seeking more information.

Lifeline 13 11 14

Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800 (for people aged 5 to 25)


Rachael Ward
(Australian Associated Press)



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