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Online sexual predators increasingly using blackmail and threats against children

Online predators using the internet to gain access to young victims are increasingly using blackmail, extortion and aggression in their approaches.

Image: Jacek Chabraszewski via Shutterstock

ONLINE SEXUAL PREDATORS are using more aggressive approaches against potential victims, including the use of blackmail and threats, according to a new report by Europol.

Online predators using the internet to gain access to young victims are increasingly using blackmail, extortion and aggression in approaches to children, the report says.

Possible differences in the methods used to solicit boys and girls have also been revealed in research quoted in the report, which involved an analysis of grooming methods observed in operations in which Australian law enforcement officers posed as children online. The study found:

Offending behaviour towards boys was noted by some police as being geared towards establishing mutual respect and trust, while with female children it was often structured toward domination.
Police suggested that aggressive tactics such as blackmail and threatening behaviour may be used more against female victims. In contrast, the ‘boy’ invoked protracted conversations where the focus was on establishing a friendship rather than the short-term sexual gratification that typically characterised interactions with a female child.

In addition to using aggression, research indicates that sexual predators continue to offer a range of incentives for both online and offline sexual activity, often tailored to the demographics and interests of young victims and responsive to changing consumer trends. These include:

  • Money
  • Clothing and accessories
  • Phones
  • Mobile phone and online services vouchers
  • Concert tickets
  • Virtual items for online gaming environments
  • Modelling and performing arts contracts

Europol says that the immediacy of the internet has meant that bogus offers of modelling or performance contracts can seen more plausible, and also encourages “a reduction in the time a potential victim might take to evaluate such an approach”.

Self-generated indecent material

The dangers of “sexting” – the production and distribution of sexual images or content by peers – was also raised in the report.

“Although mostly produced for a limited audience – a boyfriend or girlfriend, for example – this content often finds its way to wider peer groups and is distributed and used in ways not intended by the originator.

There is, for instance, some evidence that a limited amount of self-generated indecent material is finding its way into child abusive material (CAM) collections of online child sex offenders,” the report states.

Read: Concerns raised over child safety and privacy online
Read: Facebook considers allowing access to children under 13
Read: EU ‘falling short’ in warning kids about dangers of social networking

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