NCMEC operates the CyberTipline, the nation’s centralized reporting system for suspected child sexual exploitation. In 2017 alone, we received more than 10.2 million reports, a number that has been growing exponentially each year. The CyberTipline uniquely positions NCMEC to spot patterns and trends in child sexual exploitation, including the“online enticement” of children. To better understand this type of victimization, we analyzed nearly 6,000 CyberTipline reports of online enticement. Click here to view the full report and executive summary.
What is Online Enticement?
Online enticement is a broad category of online exploitation, including sextortion, in which a child is being groomed to take sexually explicit images and/or ultimately meet face-to-face with someone for sexual purposes, or to engage in a sexual conversation online or, in some instances, to sell/trade the child’s sexual images. This type of victimization took place across every platform; social media, messaging apps, gaming platforms, etc.
How is it Happening?
NCMEC recently analyzed nearly 6,000 CyberTipline reports of online enticement. The following were the overall most commonly indicated offenders’ methods against children:
- Engaging the child in sexual conversation/ role-play as a grooming method, rather than a goal (34%)
- Asking the child for sexually explicit images of themselves (33%)
- Developing a positive rapport with the child, often through compliments and praise, discussing “shared” interests or “liking”/commenting on children’s online posts, etc. (29%)
- Sending unprompted sexually explicit images of themselves (23%)
- Pretending to be younger (20%)
- Offering sexually explicit images of themselves to the child (10%)
- Asking children to reciprocally/mutually exchange images (9%)
- Offering incentives in exchange for explicit content (8%)
- In some 3rd-party reports, offenders engaged in a “testing of the waters” approach with one another such as engaging in sexual conversations that increasingly became more taboo and directed towards offering/asking about a child for sexual purposes.
- Less common (<5% of reports) methods included: pretending to be a female, pretending to be a modelling agent/photographer, pretending to be someone known to the child by using a fake/stolen account, recording/capturing images of the child without their authorization, using an autmoated system/bot to communicate in order to “case a wide net” for victims, or asking children to rate an explicit picture of themselves.
Who are the Victims? Who are the Offenders?
The majority of reported child victims were girls (78%). Boys made up 14% of reports and in 9% of reports a gender was unknown.Older girls comprised the largest category of reports at 48%.Reported victims ranged in age from 1-17 years old, with a mean age of 15.
Regarding offenders, Nearly 82% of offenders were male, with around 9% of offenders being female.An age range could not be determined, but in reports some offenders were indicated to be as young as early teens, and others as late adulthood, even into their late 70s. 98% of reported offenders were individuals seemingly unknown to the children “in real life”.Of the 2% of likely known offenders, more than half (53%) were indicated as family members. The most common reported familial offenders were identified as parents/step-parents (57%) or siblings (37%).
Likely non-familial offenders ranged in closeness to the child, from family friends and ex-intimate partners, to general acquantances in the community.
What were the Offenders’ Goals?
The top offender goals were toacquire sexual content (60%) meet for sex (32%) have explicit conversations/ role-play with the child (8%)or to extort for financial gain (2%).
Regardless of how the child was exploited, either directly or as a third-party, the offender/child relationship appeared to strongly indicate the offenders’ goals. Of the likely unknown offenders for whom goals could be determined, acquiring sexually explicit images of children was the top goal (64%), followed by the goal of having sex with the child (32%), and to engage in sexual conversation/role-play with the child (8%). In contrast, offenders likely known by the children seemed to have unique motivations. Their apparent goals seemed to be sex (40%), financial gain, such as by trading the child/child’s content for money (29%), acquiring sexually explicit images, often by trading (21%), engaging in sexual conversation (6%), and getting revenge on the child, often by sharing the explicit images of the child (4%).
What is NCMEC Doing About it?
Creating a Place to Report
In 1998, NCMEC launched the CyberTipline® to provide the public and electronic service providers with the ability to report suspected child sexual exploitation including online enticement of children for sexual acts, extra-familial child sexual molestation, child pornography, child sex tourism, child sex trafficking, unsolicited obscene materials sent to children, misleading domain names, and misleading words or digital images on the internet. After NCMEC’s review is completed, all information in a CyberTipline report is made available to the appropriate law enforcement agency.
To make a CyberTipline Report, visit report.cybertip.org.
Helping Identify Victims
The Child Victim Identification Program was launched in 2002 after NCMEC analysts repeatedly saw images of the same child victims in their reviews and began tracking which victims had been previously identified by law enforcement. So far, more than 13,000 children have been identified.Today CVIP operates with a dual mission: help provide information concerning previously identified child victims, and help law enforcement locate unidentified child victims featured in sexually abusive images so that they may be identified and rescued.
Preventing Abuse Through Education
Because of the massive amount of information that comes through the CyberTipline, NCMEC is in a unique position to spot trends and evolving threats to children- especially online. NCMEC’s digital citizenship and safety program, NetSmartz, is an innovative educational program that utilizes games, animated videos, classroom-based lesson plans, activities, and much more to help empower children to make safer choices online Learn More About NetSmartz and Online Safety