5 Measures against Sexual Exploitation of Your Children

The first part of the slogan of our observatory dedicated to predict and prevent all forms of violence against children refers to our “predictive attitudes” These attitudes imply to take a series of measures, in diverse areas. This post focuses on 5 measures that we should have present in the use we make ourselves of the Internet and mobile applications in relation to our children, so they are not detected by children’s exploitation networks. We think this would never happen to “us”, but in fact it is happening.

Currently it is not enough to aware children of the importance for making a responsible use of the Internet. Now it is also necessary to appeal to the responsibility of adults, since they too are exposing children without thinking about the possible consequences. New technologies and networking tools and platforms, like chat rooms, dating sites or online gaming, present further opportunities for interaction; but they also increase the opportunity for offenders to target vulnerable children.

Children have great value in the market of sexual exploitation, and although victims are younger and younger, critical ages range from 9 to 12, and in the next level, from 12 to 16. The actual use we do of technology increases the number of opportunities that facilitate sexual exploitation of children. Ones the images have been posted, or shared via the Internet; there is little control over who can access them. At the same time GPS software is available for mobile devices providing the coordinates that identify the location where a photograph was taken. This is one of the reasons that lead us to declare that it would be necessary to regulate the use of smartphones and their applications in a law that establishes the age limits, as it is the case for the driving license.

Unfortunately, the families of 9 year old children are giving tablets and smartphones without thinking about the consequences, or about their needs. In fact, 76% of children in Spain between 11 and 14 years old use Whatsapp on a regular basis, either on their own mobile phones or on their parents’ device, while the company’s policy underlines the minimum age to use this application is 16. However, you can follow the prevailing trends and listen to banal excuses that they are “digital natives” entering a game that not even adults can control, or you may think about our advice below, and choose to change your attitudes to protect yourselves and your children.

We now present 5 measures to protect your children’s detection on the Internet.

  1. No matter how proud you are of your children, NEVER upload photos of your children to applications like Facebook o Watsapp (to name the ones mostly used). Remember the image of a minor is PRIVATE, and their location across you, or school uniforms or sports teams, or school’s or extracurricular activities, is very easy for a predator.
  1. You should not upload photos to the Internet WITH your children, unless you fully control the people who can access these photos. But above all, NEVER upload pictures of your kid’s birthdays, or put labels on their age, nor about where they celebrate their party. These data are very specific and can locate someone in a very fast and simple way.
  1. If you have already done it, DELETE all the pictures, review the privacy policies and limit all external displays to your friends, as long as you know PERSONALLY those friends. Otherwise, delete all pictures and information you have shared about your children and request the service provider to erase all files permanently.
  1. In the website of your school or sports club, REQUEST the photos of your children to be limited to the parents, with passwords and / or Intranet, not showing their names. You already know who they are, and their classmates or teammates as well. If these entities have Facebook, request the review of its privacy policies, so that any photo viewing is anonymous and limited to adult members of the entity; that is, the families of the minors
  1. It is increasingly common to hear tablets need to be introduced in schools, and also to make videos for classroom activities. In case there are teachers who use videos showing your children, request the school to limit the use of this archives to the school context, or at the most, to the Intranet to which parents can access through password. Even if your children ask you, do not upload those videos to a virtual environment that is not protected, and do not allow your children to do so.

Although difficult, you should explain these rules to your children and make them take these into effect as well. If they do not obey, you should take the necessary measures to safeguard their security. Remember that you are responsible for their wellbeing, and that technology is not a right, it is a privilege. In our view, no child under 14 should have Facebook or Watsapp. In any case and until they are 18, you should know their passwords, known their “friends”, and periodically review the information they upload. But getting to this point of TRUST (remember “10 Tips To Connect With Your child”), the best would be to perform these actions together, so they can see you doing the same, understanding that this is a very serious and dangerous issue.

Author: Dr. Gonzalo Torquemada

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