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Predators 101:

An Introduction

View Alice's Story

When children go online, they have direct and immediate access to friends, family, and complete strangers, which can put unsuspecting children at great risk. Children who meet and communicate with strangers online are easy prey for Internet predators. Predators have easy and anonymous access to children online where they can conceal their identity and roam without limit. Often, we have an image of sexual predators lurking around school playgrounds or hiding behind bushes scoping out their potential victims, but the reality is that today’s sexual predators search for victims while hiding behind a computer screen, taking advantage of the anonymity the Internet offers.

"People who do not believe that their children could ever become victimized online are living in an unrealistic world. Regardless of if your child makes 'As' or not, that child has the potential to become victimized through online technologies. I think it is very important for parents of all socioeconomic status and with all different roles in society to take this problem very seriously."

—Melissa Morrow, Supervisory Special Agent, Child Exploitation Squad, FBI

Child Sexual Abuse: Putting the Problem in Context

  • Research indicates that about 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys experience child sexual abuse at some point in childhood.  91% of child sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone the child or child’s family knows.  (Center for Disease Control, accessed 2-18-21)

In the Internet age, offline sex abuse is fueled by pedophiles' unprecedented access to child pornography and exacerbated as perpetrators post pictures online of their exploits:

In 2018, tech companies reported over 45 million online photos and videos of children being sexually abused — more than double what they found the previous year.

  • In 1998, there were over 3,000 reports of child sexual abuse imagery.
  • Just over a decade later, yearly reports soared past 100,000.
  • In 2014, that number surpassed 1 million for the first time.
  • In 2018, there were 18.4 million, more than one-third of the total ever reported.
  • Despite landmark legislation past in 2008 to reign in the scourge (which has gone largely underfunded) the explosion in detected content kept growing — exponentially. (New York Times, Sept. 30, 2019)

What is the Profile of a Predator?

Internet Safety 101® Program Video:Profile of a Predator

What does an online predator"look like"? The online predator:

  1. Blends into society
  2. Is typically clean cut and outwardly law abiding
  3. Is usually white, middle-aged or younger, and male
  4. Uses position in society to throw off suspicion
  5. Can rise to be a pillar of society while actively pursuing children
  6. Often engages in activities involving children
  7. Appears trusting to both parents and child

What Fuels Online Predators?

  • Easy and anonymous access to children 
  • Risky online behavior 
  • Virtual validation (communication with other pedophiles via chat rooms, etc.)
  • Law enforcement challenges
  • Easy access to “a la carte” child pornography

“In a three hour period of time that I spent online I would probably talk to 25 children… When I would have initial contact with any individual, it would be my goal to find out what kind of person it is that they were looking to speak to. So if it was a 13 or 14 year old boy who was interested in speaking to a 13 or 14 year old female, then I would be that female… There are millions of pictures online that you can download and send as far as ‘This is who I am’”

-”John Doe”, Convicted Sex Offender

A Predator's Confession

Internet Safety 101® Video: A Predator's Confession

"Predators are in all professions. Unfortunately, we have seen doctors, lawyers, law enforcement and clergy. There is really no common trait. In fact, many of them are drawn to those particular professions which give them access to children"

—Mary Beth Buchanan, former U.S. District Attorney, Western Pennsylvania