A perfect storm of adults and children online means more child pornography cases
More people at home and on the internet is creating a perfect storm for adults to seek out children to engage in illicit, sexual online behavior. King County deputy prosecutors are seeing a big uptick in cases involving minors appearing in sexually explicit content — what’s considered child pornography — adults possessing and viewing this material, and adults transporting it across state lines.
Last year, prosecutors handled 48 of these cases. So far in 2020, the number is 63. The number of internet crimes involving children being reported is way up across Washington state at around 150 every day.
“And the Seattle Police Department is the clearinghouse for those and distributes those to law enforcement agencies at the appropriate state based on geolocation information,” says King County deputy prosecutor Laura Harmon.
A typical case usually involves a 13-year-old girl who meets an adult online posing as another teenager. The girl is flattered and sends pictures. The adult gets the teen to share more and more explicit images.
Prosecutors say the next step is what they call sextortion — the offender threatening to publicly shame the victim if she doesn’t give him what he wants.
“So they'll start trying to extort the minor now that they have some pictures for more pictures, ‘Hey, 13-year-old girl, if you don't send me more nude pictures of yourself, then I am going to post what you have sent me all over your Facebook and Instagram and Snapchat pages. And no one will be able to take them down because you didn't post them,' ” says Harmon.
What can parents and kids do to avoid these situations? Children and teens should never communicate with someone online who they do not know in real life. Parents need to make time to monitor devices, put limits on apps and talk about online safety as soon as children have access to the internet. Prosecutors also suggest looking at The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Network for more resources.