SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – One in five kids is sexually solicited online, according to The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Michelle Bush-Upwall, an Education Specialist with ICAC has seen some of the worst humanity has to offer.
“Our youngest victim has been one day old, to 17 and 364 days old. When it comes to child pornography images — sexual abuse of kids on videos is what people are exchanging.”
Busch-Upwall has been with ICAC for six years and says during that time, child pornography crimes have escalated.
“Every day it escalates because of the availability and the number of the new phones and new technology, the number of apps are being developed, and kids are on it,” she explained. “In the state of Utah, it’s crazy how many cyber tips we get a day — every single day. That’s not including proactive cases and that’s not including our tip line. That’s just cyber tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. We’re a really busy task force here in Utah because of our kids per capita. Predators know we have a lot of kids here.”
On Monday, Alex Chandler, of Springville, was charged with 20 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor. He admitted to police that he used the apps Whisper and Wicked to send and receive thousands of images of child pornography.
Those two apps are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to apps being used as a pathway for this crime, according to Busch-Upwall.
She says many predators use apps where they can remain anonymous. They hide their identity in order to groom children through apps and ask for explicit photos, Bush-Upwall told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson.
“They will ask for images of kids or they’ll say, ‘I’ll send you some pictures, you send me some pictures.’ They’ll even go as far as, ‘Well, do you have little sisters or brothers?’ And they’re wanting them to send child pornography images of their younger siblings. “
“It’s not just social media apps where children are being targeted, correct?” asked Johnson.
“One place we really want parents to be aware of is online gaming. We get so many cyber tips because of the chat rooms,” Busch-Upwall replied. “It’s not just the older games. It’s the younger games too, like Roblox and Club Penguin.”