Internet Crimes Against Children
Greenville County’s new sheriff Will Lewis has declared one of his top priorities as Sheriff is to crack down on online child predators. As part of his promise, he is currently developing an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) unit for Greenville County.
Started in 1998, Internet Crimes Against Children is a national task force created by the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The purpose of the task force is to provide state and local law enforcement agencies with the tools needed to prevent internet crimes against children and encourage federal, state and local jurisdictional cooperation. ICAC aims to catch those distributing or soliciting child pornography online, and catch predators soliciting victims through chat rooms, forums, social media and other methods. Currently, all fifty states participate in ICAC.
According to Internetsafety101.org powered by Enough is Enough, a non-profit committed to making the internet safe for children and families, one in 7 kids receive a sexual solicitation online, most between the ages of 13 and 15. In 82% of cases of online sex crimes against minors, the offender uses the victim’s social networking sites to gain information about the victim.
According to Sheriff Lewis in his interview with the Greenville Journal on January 3, 2017: “This is a trend that’s happening across the country. South Carolina and Greenville County aren’t immune to it.”
In 2015, Greenville County had the largest number of sexual abuse investigations in the state with 47 cases. Lewis has dedicated two investigators from the Sheriff’s Office to the ICAC Unit, which will work directly with Greenville County’s Criminal Forensics Unit and the state’s ICAC Task Force.
One of the goals of ICAC is to educate law enforcement, parents and teachers about internet crimes against children, and how they can ensure their child does not fall victim. In support of Sheriff Lewis’ priority to keep children safe in Greenville County, we want to share some ways to protect your children online.
- Teach your children about risky online behavior, including posting personal information, interacting with strangers, sending personal information to strangers or visiting inappropriate websites. Alarmingly, four out of five 16-year olds regularly access pornography online, and children in the U.S. begin consuming hardcore pornography on average at the age of 11. *
- While parents may look at a child’s device to skim text messages, email and photos, they often overlook apps. You should know what apps your child has downloaded and what they do through those apps. Child predators use apps to target victims and some apps may have hidden features that unlock hidden apps, photos and videos.
- Set parameters. As a parent, it is your responsibility to set limits. Monitor calls, email and texts from unknown numbers and social accounts. Only allow computers, tablets and devices to be used in common areas of the home that are accessible to everyone and ensure your child sets privacy settings on any social accounts.
- Look for Warning Signs. Is your child secretive about online activities or obsessive about being online? Do they receive phone calls from people or numbers that you do not recognize? Are they withdrawn from family or friends? Do they change the screen or turn off the computer when an adult enters the room? As a parent, you should always know your children’s phone password and passwords to social accounts. It is also important to install software that blocks inappropriate websites.
- Communicating with your child is key. Pay attention to what they do online and ask non-threatening questions. Don’t over-react if they admit to talking to a stranger or encountering a dangerous situation online. It is important that your child can talk to you about these situations so you can help them avoid danger.
- Don’t hesitate to ask your child if an online stranger has tried to befriend them, ask for personal information, say anything to make them uncomfortable, asked for pictures, or talked about sex. Your child needs to know and understand what is appropriate and inappropriate and it is important to ask the right questions.