Online Exploitation Is Turning Children Into Porn: A Warning for Parents

Earlier this year, we published an article about the Porn Pandemic attacking our children. Like the Coronavirus, porn is spreading rapidly and putting our children’s lives at risk.

Sound Alarmist? The reality is even worse than it sounds.

USA Today reports a massive spike in online child exploitation over the last year. In increasing numbers, online predators are actively seeking out children and grooming them for sex. The article quotes the commander of the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force: “Online child exploitation right now is probably one of the biggest problems, from a crime perspective, in our country.”

In other words, the Porn Pandemic is not merely exposing our children to porn—it’s literally turning them into porn.

How is this happening?

On July 9, 2019, a group of concerned advocates testified before the US Senate Judiciary Committee regarding online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. This included testimony from Chris McKenna, from Covenant Eyes and the founder of Protect Young Eyes (his 6-minute testimony begins at the 32:22 mark). Among other problems, they highlighted the way that social media is being used by predators to find children online and groom them for sex.

Instagram is the number one social media platform for pedophiles to find and groom children. Our good friends at PYE explain how comments, hashtags, likes, and DMs can all be used by predators—even if the child’s account is private.

In a lengthy exposé on online child sex abuse and exploitation, the New York Times notes Snapchat as a frequent tool for abusers (trigger warning—this article includes horrific details about the sexual abuse of children). The nature of Snapchat’s service, with automatically disappearing messages and images, make it very difficult to track perpetrators on this platform

TikTok has become one of the most popular social media platforms and has just as quickly become a “hunting ground” and “magnet” for sexual predators. Rolling Stone reports that many TikTok videos uploaded by teens are appearing on PornHub without their knowledge (trigger warning for this article as well).

Earlier this year, studies found that Facebook had failed to detect hundreds of cases of child exploitation on their platform. In the UK, investigators reported that Twitter responsible for half of the child abuse material found online.

What can be done?

First, parents, in particular, need to wake up to the danger of the Porn Pandemic, and particularly how social media fuels the exploitation of children. Organizations like the National Center on Sexual Exploitation do a great job of tracking these issues and raising awareness.

The good news is, some companies are taking the issue seriously and taking steps to crack down on the exploitation of minors. For example, this past October Twitter updated their rules and policies to a zero-tolerance stance towards pedophilia. This doesn’t mean Twitter is safe for children now, but it does mean that more people are aware of the problem and taking steps to correct it.

Second, parents need to educate themselves on social media platforms and make informed decisions about which apps they will allow their children to use, and how to use them safely. Here are detailed app reviews for some of the most popular apps used by children today from PYE:

In those app reviews, you’ll notice that Covenant Eyes is one of the only monitoring solutions that can detect any explicit activity in these highly guarded (with https) social platforms. Our Screen Accountability service on Android can accurately detect pornographic content on the screen. We can’t see into these social networks on iPhones, but no one can. Apple prevents all access to its screen.

Third, keep that doorway to a conversation about all of the awkward things wide, wide open. Loving, curious, non-condemning conversations are a great equalizer for the hyper-sexualized exposures just waiting for our precious children. Give your kids permission to speak freely and ample opportunities to share anything by YOU spending intentional, 1-on-1, shoulder-to-shoulder time with each of them.

Make no mistake. Pornography is actively pursuing the eyes, brain, and heart of your child in social media. What are you doing daily to overcome their efforts?

Maybe the best time to start doing more is today.