This blog follows my attending a webinar on “Lived Streamed Abuse of Minors”
Platforms with a ‘live stream’ option are commonly involved in the production of child sexual exploitation material with many victims producing the material themselves.
Some platforms mentioned included:
In 2018, the Internet Watch Foundation conducted a study into live streaming and found that:
96% of children appeared to be alone i.e. no adult was present, and they were in their home environment e.g. their bedroom
98% of the images depicted children assessed as being 13 years or younger, and in some case more than one child was involved.
The highest number of reports involved children aged between 11 and 13, followed by children aged between 7 and 10. The majority were girls.
40% of images were categorised as being category A or B which indicates serious abuse.
The presenter of the presentation, who holds a senior position in law enforcement, made a further comments worth noting;
“Victim produced, live-streamed content is the fastest growing type of child sexual abuse material”.
“If a child has an internet connected device with a camera, there is a target on their back”.
“We don’t allow children to interact with strangers offline, why do we allow such behaviour online?”
“The main thing is that apps & platforms constantly change, but the way children seek validation outside the home or have behavioral changes when victimised is pretty consistent”.
“This highlights why focusing on platforms over behavior is not always a feasible option. While parents need to understand the apps & spaces their children operate in, they must also understand any platform is open to abuse. I have worked these cases long enough to see exploitation happen on Club Penguin, homework sites, & even in the comments of YouTube videos. If the app or platform allows for content posting, comments, or direct chat it is open to abuse.
Recognizing unusual behaviour is paramount; furtive acts, emotional withdrawal, self-harm, or even unexplained money, gifts, or items. Apps come and go, offender needs (access) & victimization signs remain relatively unchanged.”
Children live stream for various reasons including:
to communicate with friends
to increase popularity and gain followers
for real-time gaming with friends and teammates
and for some simply because they are seeking new friends
It is very difficult for law enforcement to control this problem for a number of reasons, including the fact that there are so many platforms offering live-streaming options and, at any given time there are up to tens of thousand children live-streaming.
Please do not allow children in their bedrooms or bathrooms with an internet-connected device. Remind children of the risks. Children are young and curious and are prone to impulsive decisions — this makes them easy prey.
Monitor your own device use — children model our behaviour, and if they feel we’re tuned out, they’ll turn elsewhere for attention.
The sheer volume of CSAM being reported is alarming and we all need to be vigilant with our children online.