Shocking survey into online predators prompts warning to parents about sharing photos of kids online

Shocking survey into online predators prompts warning to parents about sharing photos of kids online
  • PublishedMay 2, 2024

The data from the study was pored over by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), with more than 100 of those who took part reporting they had experienced at least one request from online predators for child sexual exploitation (CSE) content.

That included paedophiles asking questions of a sexual nature about children they knew, making requests and offers of payment for sexual images, and pressuring people to provide the images.

“Respondents who reported sharing a photo of or information about children online were significantly more likely to have received requests for facilitated CSE, compared to respondents who had not shared a photo of or information regarding children online,” the report said.

“Sharing a photo of or information regarding children online was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of being asked questions of a sexual nature about children, as well as being asked, pressured or offered payment for sexual images of children.”

The AIC said people were more likely to receive the sickening requests if the photos were shared publicly through public social media posts or on dating profiles, rather than on private social media posts or direct messages to family and friends.

Men, people aged 18-34, people who were linguistically diverse or had a disability, and those who had experienced sexual or other violence online were more likely to be targeted.

Researchers said posting photos privately seemed to mitigate a lot of the risk, describing it as a “simple change that parents, guardians and others in a caregiving role could make.”

The research has prompted a warning to parents from the federal government.

“Australians are increasingly sharing more of their personal lives online, including photos of children, commonly referred to as ‘sharenting’,” Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said.

“Publicly sharing pictures places children at risk of exploitation and harm from offenders who may groom parents or guardians to create or distribute child sexual abuse material.

“No parent would ever hand a photo album of their children to a stranger and the same care should apply to photos posted online.”

Dreyfus looks pensive with an Australian flag visible behind him.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has warned parents not to share photos of their children publicly online.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Online platforms urged to do more to prompt people to check before posting

The AIC report said online platforms had a responsibility to “mitigate harms and to warn users of the risks associated with particular online behaviours.”

“For example, while Facebook, Instagram and TikTok prohibit the posting of material that sexually exploits or could lead to the sexual exploitation of children, there are no specific provisions regarding the posting of photos or information regarding children in general,” it said.

“Similarly, dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble do not allow the posting of profile photos of unaccompanied or unclothed children, yet this does not prevent users from posting profile photos of themselves with children or sharing that they have children.

“Given the present findings, showing that merely posting photos of or information regarding children publicly online was associated with an increased likelihood of receiving requests for facilitated CSE, there is a need for online platforms to inform users of this risk.”

The AIC said platforms could issue warnings to people as they tried to upload photos of children.

“Most social media platforms and dating apps prohibit the posting of material that sexually exploits or could lead to the sexual exploitation of children, but there are no specific provisions regarding the posting of photos or information regarding children in general,” Mr Dreyfus said.

Australians posting photos of their children on social media are being targeted by online predators, with some even offering payments to try to encourage parents to send sexual images to them.

The disturbing findings come from a survey of more than 4,000 people, and are prompting warnings from law enforcement agencies and the Federal Government for parents to think twice about what they are posting on social media.

The data from the study was pored over by the Australian Institute of Criminology (AIC), with more than 100 of those who took part reporting they had experienced at least one request from online predators for child sexual exploitation (CSE) content.

That included paedophiles asking questions of a sexual nature about children they knew, making requests and offers of payment for sexual images, and pressuring people to provide the images.

“Respondents who reported sharing a photo of or information about children online were significantly more likely to have received requests for facilitated CSE, compared to respondents who had not shared a photo of or information regarding children online,” the report said.

“Sharing a photo of or information regarding children online was associated with a significantly increased likelihood of being asked questions of a sexual nature about children, as well as being asked, pressured or offered payment for sexual images of children.”

The AIC said people were more likely to receive the sickening requests if the photos were shared publicly through public social media posts or on dating profiles, rather than on private social media posts or direct messages to family and friends.

Men, people aged 18-34, people who were linguistically diverse or had a disability, and those who had experienced sexual or other violence online were more likely to be targeted.

Researchers said posting photos privately seemed to mitigate a lot of the risk, describing it as a “simple change that parents, guardians and others in a caregiving role could make.”

The research has prompted a warning to parents from the federal government.

“Australians are increasingly sharing more of their personal lives online, including photos of children, commonly referred to as ‘sharenting’,” Federal Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus said.

“Publicly sharing pictures places children at risk of exploitation and harm from offenders who may groom parents or guardians to create or distribute child sexual abuse material.

“No parent would ever hand a photo album of their children to a stranger and the same care should apply to photos posted online.”

Dreyfus looks pensive with an Australian flag visible behind him.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus has warned parents not to share photos of their children publicly online.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Online platforms urged to do more to prompt people to check before posting

The AIC report said online platforms had a responsibility to “mitigate harms and to warn users of the risks associated with particular online behaviours.”

“For example, while Facebook, Instagram and TikTok prohibit the posting of material that sexually exploits or could lead to the sexual exploitation of children, there are no specific provisions regarding the posting of photos or information regarding children in general,” it said.

“Similarly, dating apps such as Tinder and Bumble do not allow the posting of profile photos of unaccompanied or unclothed children, yet this does not prevent users from posting profile photos of themselves with children or sharing that they have children.

“Given the present findings, showing that merely posting photos of or information regarding children publicly online was associated with an increased likelihood of receiving requests for facilitated CSE, there is a need for online platforms to inform users of this risk.”

The AIC said platforms could issue warnings to people as they tried to upload photos of children.

“Most social media platforms and dating apps prohibit the posting of material that sexually exploits or could lead to the sexual exploitation of children, but there are no specific provisions regarding the posting of photos or information regarding children in general,” Mr Dreyfus said.

SOURCE: ABCNEWS

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