Do you know where the latest digital dangers are lurking? Make no mistake about it: the porn industry and predators want your kids.

National security depends upon good intelligence – knowing who the enemies are and where they will strike. Your family security needs it too!

It’s time to be prepared, not scared. Armed with current intel on the current ways pornography and predators target children, you’ll be ready to protect your kids in 2019.

1. The Internet of Things creates safety and security issues for kids

The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to all of the everyday objects now connected to the Internet such as appliances, home assistants, and even toys. They often have the label “Smart” in front of them. And while they tout convenience and fun, they also have dangerous drawbacks.

For example, Samsung has just introduced The Family Hub – a smart fridge that features a large screen in one door. (In fact, this type of smart interface was pioneered by my husband’s Microsoft Home team 20 years ago! But I digress . . . ) I won’t lie – this looks super cool!

But parents need to be aware of the browser feature on the Family Hub which means – you guessed it! – internet access.

As you consider smart products for your home, be aware that:

  • They can be hacked. One man’s Smart TV was hacked, which allowed burglars to disable his home security system. He came home from work to find his place ransacked – with no sign of forced break in. Imagine if this had happened when children were home alone! Yikes!
  • Your child’s personal data is collected. There’s actually lots of privacy and security concerns about big companies gathering info from children who use smart devices like Amazon Echo, etc.
  • Kids have more internet access. More internet access = more portals to risky content that need to be secured and monitored.

Internet of Things

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What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

Want to teach your kids how to stay safe from pornography in every situation? Get our free Quick Start Guide for Proactive Parents at the bottom of this post.

2. Apps that allow sextortion and harrassment of kids

You may have heard the old saying, “Where children play, predators prey.” More than ever, it’s true in 2019. Today young people spend time on digital playgrounds, so people with dangerous intentions gather there as well.

Many apps have a “Live Chat” feature which lets anyone else have access to your child. And apps that allow kids to post videos of themselves are especially risky. TikTok, Kwai and Clip are some of the popular social video apps where users post 15-second clips of themselves. The apps are full of “scantily-clad women or underage girls and boys dancing suggestively, posing in a bathroom or a pool, lip-syncing to vulgar songs or flirting with the audience.”

On these video apps, many kids like to engage in challenges such as such as creating a dance video using a particular song. Prize money and social approval are big motivators for kids seeking connection and validation.

These apps have become hunting grounds for predators, who groom kids by complimenting their video and asking to see more skin. There’s also a trend of sex offenders sending explicit videos to kids, then asking them to record themselves imitating the video.

In fact, there are known sextortion rings who target children online. Kids are befriended, asked for photos which become increasingly sexual, and then threatened if the child won’t produce more.

Sextortion Rings threaten children

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

3. Video games expose kids to unprecedented levels of sexual violence

Sexual content in video games is nothing new, but be aware – there has been a definite rise in the quantity and explicit nature of sex in video games even in the past year.

A recent study by the National Center on Sexual Exploitation reported that Steam (the largest distributor of video games) hosted over 1,600 games with nudity in 2018, double the number when compared to 780 in 2017! 35 million children buy games from Steam, and these games are available to users of all ages.

The graphic sexual content in these games is often violent, promoting sexual harassment and assault. They normalize predatory tactics and desensitize players to increasingly degrading behaviors.

The largest pornography company in the industry is capitalizing on this shift and has launched their own video game distribution platform. In just a few months last year, its user traffic leaped from 50 million to 115 million visits. This is just the beginning, because the company has invested $30 million in game studios, intending to expand the market of explicit pornographic games. And some games are free to play, meaning young kids could access them without a credit card “paywall”.

Adding to the risk, popular gaming systems like PlayStation Network and Xbox Live have been infiltrated by porn bots. If safety features are not set up properly, young players can get messages from bots trying to engage the kids in a conversation and lure them into viewing pornography.

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • It’s a good time to revisit the games your kids play, the parental controls you have set up, and the rules kids are expected to follow. Find info on parental controls and video game reviews here.
  • Most of all, teach kids why sexual content in games is harmful and what to do if they run into it.

The most powerful way to protect your kids from all of these dangers is to teach them what pornography is, why it is dangerous, and what they can do when they see it! Our read-aloud books make it safe and easy for parents and kids to talk about being prepared to reject pornography. Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids (2nd Edition) is for ages 6-11 and Good Pictures Bad Pictures Jr.: A Simple Plan to Protect Young Minds is just right for ages 3-7.

“Have you wanted to talk to your kids about pornography, but didn’t know what to say?! I’ve felt that way for quite some time and finally found a solution – Good Pictures Bad Pictures. . . I highly recommend this book to all people with children. A must have for all parents!” – Amazon Review. CLICK HERE to learn more about Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids.

4. Livestream gaming – an open door to graphic games and crude culture

While we’re on the subject of video games – one thing that baffles most parents is that kids love to watch other people play video games!

This phenomenon has exploded into the popularity of watching other gamers play on livestreaming services such as Twitch, Youtube, and Facebook.

Fortnite is the most popular livestream game on Twitch – it was watched for 114,723,116 hours in the last 30 days! Kids can watch players in all sorts of games such as League of Legends, Minecraft, and Grand Theft Auto.

There’s more to be concerned about just additional passive screen time here. Your kids might enjoy playing some good, safe games in your own home, but then be exposed to violent and sexualized game content by watching other gamers play some very disturbing games that you would never approve of.

Gaming livestreams show a real-time video of the player along with the live game play – and some gamers may not be the role model you would want your child to follow. And because it’s live, anything can happen. The excitement of playing can lead to streamers acting impulsively without thinking of the consequences.

There are also chat rooms where viewers can comment; and unfortunately there is a culture of crude language, lewd behavior, risque humor, harassment of women players, and violence among many gamers. Twitch also has a Whisper feature that allows users to talk privately, which could allow grooming or harassment to go on.

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • Ask your kids if they have been watching livestream gaming. Younger kids would be better off not viewing – Twitch’s minimum age is 13.
  • Reinforce consistent standards for gaming. For teens, make sure they know that the same standards of content and behavior that your family has established for playing video games also applies to viewing livestream gaming.
  • Use the same family guidelines for all entertainment. Watching livestream gaming is entertainment, like watching a movie. Use the same guidelines your family follows for movies and TV. Talk about acceptable language, behavior, and content and what to do if the livestream goes off track.
  • Practice quality control. Watch with them, and check in frequently.

5. Kids abusing other kids: a bitter but growing trend

It’s called “child-on-child harmful sexual behavior.” We often worry about older predators online or coaches targeting our children on sports teams. Rarely do we worry about an older sibling, cousin or nextdoor neighbor child. Unfortunately, child-on-child harmful sexual behavior is on the rise because of exposure to pornography.

When Heidi Olson, a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE), oversaw a research project at her hospital, they discovered that the biggest age range of perpetrators committing sexual assaults against children is 11 to 15Let that sink in for a moment.

A separate report from the UK showed that “up to 65% of sexual abuse experienced by children under 18 is perpetrated by someone under the age of 18.” (Barnardo’s, 2016, 15)

Here’s one heartbreaking story. Recently a desperate mom wrote to me because a 10-year-old boy, who she was watching during the summer, sexually molested her younger daughter. When the boy’s mother was confronted with the offense, she broke down and admitted that she had discovered “pornography of every kind” on her son’s tablet 3 weeks prior.

Before this incident, the boy had no inappropriate sexual behavior, and his mother didn’t think that her son had ever been sexually abused. However, it appears that after three weeks of viewing pornography, he felt compelled to act out sexually on another child.

Children are viewing pornography and then acting out on each other because they are wired to imitate what they see adults do. This is just another destructive and life-altering way that porn harms kids – both the child victims and the children who act out.

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • Teach your children early what pornography is, why it’s harmful and how they can reject it.
  • Include the importance of never showing it to another child. In fact, showing pornography to a minor is illegal!
  • Be aware of the possibility of child-on-child harmful sexual behavior.
  • Teach kids about body safety boundaries, and be clear that the rules apply to anyone of any age, even their friends. For more, check out one of our all-time most popular posts: The 3 Big Red Flags of Child Abuse
  • Also teach kids to respect other kids’ body safety boundaries.

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6. Rated-R Muppet movies and deceptive cartoon porn

Animated cartoon shows started with Disney and were made for children. But now, more and more animated features have “adult” themes and content. That can get misleading for busy parents!

For example, the makers of the Muppets decided to create an R-rated film, The Happytime Murders (we’re pretty sure Jim Henson is rolling in his grave). You can look the trailer up on YouTube, but we’re not linking to it here.

Here’s an excerpt from the Rotten Tomatoes review of The Happytime Murders:

“They may look like the puppets your kids see on Sesame Street, made of colorful felt with sweet faces and kind, googly eyes. But be warned: The characters in The Happytime Murders aren’t here to teach your kids their ABCs and 1-2-3s. They’re too busy having sex, doing drugs, drinking in hot tubs and starring in porn videos – and they’re brought to you by the letter F, over and over again. That’s the gimmick in this extremely hard-R comedy: Seemingly wholesome characters take part in unspeakably unwholesome activities.”

Here’s another example – what if your kids asked it they could watch a fun cartoon about jr. high kids called Big Mouth on Netflix? Some busy parents might say yes without a thought. Hopefully that’s not you!

Big Mouth is an adult-rated cartoon show filled with vulgar language, graphic nudity, and even more seriously disturbing sexual conduct involving kids who are just 11 – 13 years old. And since it’s a cartoon, it naturally attracts young viewers. If you’ve got Netflix, make sure you’ve set up the parental controls.

Then there’s anime. My grown-up daughter really enjoys anime shows, but she has often stopped watching a series because sexually explicit material appeared after a few episodes. One woman I interviewed said that she started watching anime porn when she was young (because it wasn’t “real” porn), and then got addicted to it.

“Children looking for animated content could accidentally open a porn video. Or they could start searching for innocent videos and unintentionally end up on Web sites containing violent content, both of which could have a long-term impact on their impressionable and vulnerable minds.” Anna Larkina, Web-content analysis expert at Kaspersky Lab 

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • Never assume that a show is safe because it’s animated. Check it out first!
  • Use the parental controls available for your cable TV or video streaming services.
  • If your child wants to watch an anime show, watch at least three episodes, including shows from later episodes.
  • Teach kids the some people want to trick them online by making pornography that looks like a fun kid’s cartoon. Practice what to do if they see anything like that.
  • Most importantly, help your kids understand why they don’t want that kind of content polluting their minds.

7. Cute kid hashtags make it easy for predators to find victims

Posting adorable, innocent photos of your kids on social media is just part of parenting today – but it can actually lead sexual predators right to your kids. One way predators search for compromising photos of children is through hashtags like #BathTime, #PottyTime and #PottyTraining. A few other hashtags that are favored by doting parents, but exploited by sex offenders are #NakedKids and #NakedBaby.

Predators not only target children with the intention of grooming them or tracking them down in person; they can also digitally change the photos into something terribly abusive.

Fake Photoshopped images have now evolved into altered Deepfake videos that are incredibly realistic. Deepfakes are videos that superimpose someone’s face onto someone else’s body – and you can hardly tell it’s a deception. Already there are way too many people using it to swap a non-consenting person’s face onto a porn performer. These face-swaps create obvious problems for exploitation, and could be used for blackmail and harassment. Even of kids.

“The potential harm in over-sharing private moments far outweighs the benefits, as social media is now a digital playground for dangerous pedophiles to steal and turn innocent photos of children into exploitative content with irreversible and lasting damage,” said Carly Yoost, Founder and CEO of Child Rescue Coalition.

What parents can do to help keep kids safe:

  • Keep private moments private, and don’t use hashtags that could put your kids in danger.
  • Just as we warn teens to think twice before sharing inappropriate pictures, we need to remember that when we post a photo of our child we lose control of where it goes or how it is used.
  • Child Rescue Coalition says before sharing your child’s image on social media, ask yourself:
    • Why am I sharing this?
    • Would I want someone else to share an image like this of me?
    • Would I want this image of my child viewed and downloaded by predators on the Dark Web?
    • Is this something I want to be part of my child’s digital life?

Conclusion

Parenting in the digital age requires reliable intel and constant vigilance. The good news is that proactive parents really can stay informed about the dangers, stay in tune with their kids, and put protective measures in place.

Remember this simple formula:

  1. Filter and monitor the areas under your control.
  2. Help your kid install an internal filter so they CAN protect themselves in the areas you can’t control.
  3. Continue to have open and ongoing conversations about pornography, predators, and other dangers found in media.

Parent Alert! Monthly Updates

Every month we publish a Parent Alert! post to help you stay current with digital dangers. Stay ahead of the trends and share it with other parents! Their kids are your children’s friends and classmates. We’re all safer together!

Get your free Quick Start Guide for Proactive Parents and you will also get our Parent Alert! each month.

The Quick Start Guide has answers to these important questions:

  • Why are so many good kids getting pulled into pornography?
  • How can parents get more comfortable talking to their kids?
  • What are the benefits to tackling this subject early?
  • What EXACTLY do your kids need to know to stay safe from pornography in every situation?

Get your free copy by clicking on the image below:

Kristen Jenson
Kristen A. Jenson is the founder of Protect Young Minds and author of Good Pictures Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today's Young Kids. Kristen enjoys speaking, writing and anything else that will help empower kids to reject pornography. Kristen earned a bachelor’s degree in English Literature, and a master’s degree in Organizational Communication. Kristen currently lives with her husband in Washington State, where she enjoys growing a vegetable garden, watching Masterpiece Theater, and taking long walks with friends who tolerate her incessant talking about you know what. Above all else, her husband and three children are her greatest treasures.
Vauna Davis
Vauna Davis is happy to be working with Protect Young Minds as the Outreach and Education Coordinator. She has been involved in the cause opposing pornography for many years. She is founder and director of Reach 10, a nonprofit that empowers young adults to speak, teach, and lead on the issue of pornography. She serves as chair for The Safeguard Alliance of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, and is former director of Utah Coalition Against Pornography. She received an MA in Communications from BYU and lives with her husband, Michael, in Springville, Utah. They enjoy spending time with their grown-up children and grandkids. She loves yardwork - it gets her away from her desk!
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