SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Thousands of tips have been turned over to Utah’s law enforcement this year regarding predators finding kids on social media and enticing them into sexual activities.
The Internet Crimes Against Children has received anywhere from 3,000-4,000 tips this year, says Jessica Farnsworth, Section Chief for the ICAC Department.
“About half of those check out to be actual cases,” Farnsworth said.
Farnsworth says predators usually turn to chat rooms, social media sites and apps, and online video games to find their victims.
“Anywhere a child is going to be, a predator is going to be. They’re not dumb. They know how to find those kids and start grooming them,” she told ABC4 News.
In most cases, a predator will befriend a minor through social media and then start to engage in sexual encounters.
“They’ll try to build a rapport with the child, convince the child that they’re great and to come meet with them and engage in sexual activity with them,” said Farnsworth.
“You’ll have a predator that will contact a pre-teen and ask them to take pictures of themselves — their genitals. So the child, for whatever reason, does it and sends it to that predator. The child, most of the time thinks that it’s a kid their age — usually, it’s not. Usually what happens then is the predator contacts the child and says, ‘Now I want you to do X, Y, Z, and take pictures of you doing that’ (taking a picture while posing in a sexual kind of way),” she added.
There are many forms of child exploitation and Farnsworth says one of the most common is child pornography. That’s when parents of a child, or someone the child trusts, records them and distributes the video online to predators throughout the United States.
“It’s despicable,” Farnsworth said. “We see kids as young as one day old, being sexually assaulted and video recorded … In addition to being sexually assaulted, they’re also tortured. Sometimes they’re even killed in these videos … I think if anyone of anybody in Utah saw one of those videos, it would blow their mind and they would want that person locked up forever.”
Tips for children to protect themselves online:
- Don’t take and send nude photos
- If the conversation turns sexual contact an adult
- If you become a victim call the Internet Crimes Against Children Tip Line (801) 281-1211
Tips for parents:
- Monitor your child’s online activity
- Obtain the password to their social media sites
- Become familiar with the parental guides on social media sites and apps