How Do Online Predators Find Children?

Individuals looking for potential child victims online have no difficulty finding them. It is quite common for these offenders to go to “kids only” chat rooms and communicate with children who unwittingly divulge personal information about themselves. A more recent phenomenon is the solicitation of sex over the Internet. A survey conducted by the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire found that one in five youth who regularly use the Internet received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet in 2000.

After this initial meeting, child predators will often continue to communicate with the child electronically or through other means. Some of these individuals may then attempt to lower the child’s inhibitions by gradually introducing sexual content into their online conversations and even send pornographic images to the child. When children are shown images of peers engaged in sexual activities, they are led to believe that this behavior is acceptable. This lowers their inhibitions and makes it easier for the molester to take advantage of the child sexually.

Parents and guardians are strongly encouraged to speak openly with their children about online dangers and monitor their online activities.

How Old Are the Children in These Images?

According to investigators who handled the cases of estimated arrestees, most had images of children who had not yet reached puberty. Specifically 83% had images of children between ages 6 and 12, 39% had images of 3 to 5 year old children, and 19% had images of toddlers or infants younger than age 3.