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Survivor Sarah Cooper’s road map for keeping kids safe from online predators

An EU panel invited Cooper to share her outline for stopping child sexual exploitation. Plus, a look at the problem by the numbers.

Joining the executive director of Europol and others, Sarah Cooper told her story on June 9 at a European Union webinar, “Preventing and Combating Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation” (she used her married surname at the event). Cooper proposed a four-pronged approach to combating the problem and detailed what is needed for each category:

Prevention

  • Collaboration among technology companies and schools
  • Funding to educate kids and parents about what grooming and predatory behavior look like
  • Mentors closer in age to kids to help them feel comfortable talking about risky online and social media behavior

Detection

  • More moderators who will flag grooming messages and sexual images of children on social media sites
  • More cooperation among technology companies and law enforcement
  • Secure channels for users that do not entail end-to-end encryption, which prevents law enforcement from obtaining proof needed to stop predators and get justice for victims

Support

  • Remove images of victims from the Internet so they are not revictimized
  • Provide and fund therapy to the victim and family members, as needed
  • Prosecute predators

Cooperation

  • Parents, law enforcement, teachers, non-governmental organizations, hot lines, and technology and social media companies must work together; no single person or entity can do it alone

Source: European Commission video. (Cooper’s remarks start around the 1:03 mark.)

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EXPLOITATION BY THE NUMBERS

More than 16.9 million — Number of reports of images, videos, and other online material related to child sexual exploitation made to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children in 2019.

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93.33 percent: —The increase in online enticement reports to the NCMEC in the first six months of 2020, compared with 2019, coinciding with the COVID-19 pandemic.

15 — Mean age of victims, based on NCMEC CyberTipline reports. Victims ranged in age from 1-17.*

78 percent — Percentage of reports to the NCMEC CyberTipline involving girls.*

69.1 million — Number of photos, videos, and other material of children being sexually abused reported by tech companies in 2019.

Sources: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children; European Commission on Migration and Home Affairs

* 2015 data; most recent available