Children under six manipulated for sexual abuse, ‘deeply disturbing’ report finds

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Children under six manipulated for sexual abuse, ‘deeply disturbing’ report finds

Children under the age of six are being manipulated into committing “disturbing” acts of sexual abuse, according to a report by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).

Warning: This story contains descriptions of images of child sexual abuse

Last year was the most extreme year on record for the IWF’s abuse hotline, which saw a 22% increase in “category A” images.

Category A images involve penetrative sexual activity, images involving sexual activity with an animal, or sadism.

For the first time, the charity analyzed an entire year’s worth of data on abuse of children aged three to six and found these young children were being targeted while online on phones and devices at within the family home.

“All ‘self-generated’ images of child sexual abuse are horrific, but seeing so many very young children in these images and videos is particularly distressing,” the report said.

The number of “self-generated” child sexual abuse images jumped 27% in one year. This is created by the attacker when he directs the victim remotely and records them from webcams. These are the vast majority of abusive images analyzed by the IWF.

“The term ‘self-generated’ does not mean that the child himself or herself initiated the creation of this sexual content,” the report’s authors said.

“They are manipulated, coerced, and in some cases blackmailed into engaging in sexual behavior. They are never responsible for the creation or existence of these images.”

Most of the images showed children in a family setting and most often in a child’s bedroom. In the background, analysts saw stuffed animals, games, books and bedding depicting cartoon characters.

“These are very young children, supposedly in the safety of their own rooms, most likely unaware that the activities they are forced to do are being recorded and saved and ultimately shared multiple times over the Internet,” the report said. .

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“Predators are targeting younger and younger victims”

The IWF is one of the few non-governmental organizations in the world with the legal powers to proactively research child sexual abuse online so that it can be removed from the internet and referred to the police.

The association is now calling on children under six to be warned of the dangers online.

“Opportunistic criminals who want to manipulate your children into engaging in disturbing acts of sexual abuse are not a distant threat,” said Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the IWF.

“They are now trying to talk to them on phones and devices that can be found in any family home.

“If children under the age of six are being targeted, we need to have age-appropriate conversations now to ensure they know how to spot dangers. »

“This deeply disturbing report shows that predators are targeting younger and younger victims,” said Security Minister Tom Tugendhart.

“My message to parents is to talk to your children about their use of social media, because platforms you assume are safe can pose a risk.”

Last week Ofcom released a report showing that more than 40% of parents of children aged five to seven say they use social media with their child, while a third admit their child uses social media from independently.

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Around 30% of parents of these younger children also said they would allow their child to have a social media profile before they reach the minimum age requirement.

“Offenders are having access to even younger children, which is simply unimaginable for all of us,” said Ian Critchley, head of child protection at NPCC.

“But this is not just the responsibility of parents and guardians: the biggest change we need to see is coming from tech companies and online platforms.

“Companies continue to fail to protect children and far too often continue to put profit over children’s safety. »

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