A record number of reports of suspected online child enticement were made to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in 2020.
Online child enticement is communication with a child via the Internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction, according to the non-profit.
The NCMEC Cyber Tipline received a total of 21.7 million reports of suspected enticement last year as the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus raged, out of which 21.4 million were reports coming from electronic service providers. The remaining reports came from members of the public.
This was a 28 percent increase in reports compared to the 16.9 million reports received in 2019.
According to NCMEC, 2020 experienced an alarming 97.5 percent uptick in enticement incidents: from roughly 19,000 in 2019 to more than 37,000 in 2020.
One of the prominent reasons behind this increase has been the social changes resulting from the CCP virus pandemic, which has seen children spending more time online for virtual learning and socializing through social media and online games due to local restrictions.
“Online enticement can happen to any child using the internet,” executive director of NCMEC’s Exploited Children Division, Lindsey Olson, said.
“Offenders are very effective at grooming children, gaining their trust, isolating them from their parents and then exploiting them. Parents often think that it would ‘never’ happen to their child, but we know that is simply not true.
“We take all reports of online enticement very seriously,” she said.
The non-profit says that when a report is submitted to their CyberTipline, they analyze and pass it on to the relevant law enforcement agencies all around the world.
Susan Kennedy, prevention program manager at NCMEC, says that parents need to be intelligently involved in their children’s online activities.
“The best thing you can do to protect your child online is to be involved in their online life,” she said in a statement. “Ask about what they are doing online and take a genuine interest. Provide guidance but try not to be overly punitive or judgmental.
“Offenders are able to take advantage of children when their activities are secret. This happens often when children are not comfortable or even afraid to go to adults in their lives when something is happening online, especially when they feel that they have done things they regret or know they shouldn’t have done.”
Of all the online enticement victim reports, girls constituted 78 percent, boys 13 percent, and the rest had an unidentified gender.
A majority of the children—99 percent—didn’t know the offender in person.