What the Tech? How Misspelling Website Names Can Expose Your Children to Danger

The pandemic has been a difficult time for all of us but for sex predators, it’s opened a big opportunity to lure children into a dark online world.

The National Centers for Missing and Exploited Children released its statistics from reports of online child sex exploitation and the results are a staggering and frightening reminder that children are not safe using just about any online platform.

In 2019 the Center’s CyberTipline received nearly 40,000 reports of online enticement of children for sexual acts. That’s nearly double the number of reports in 2019. The report gives a good insight into how sex predators use the internet and apps to approach, entice, and even lure children to meet them IRL or ‘in real life’.

“The internet has created life for the better in so many ways but has created more new ways to exploit our kids. And predators are using it to do just that,” said Callahan Walsh, a child advocate from the NCMEC.

“These exploiters are early-adopters of technology. They understand how to elude law enforcement, they understand legislature, they know how to be anonymous online,” he said.

Just look at the increases from 2019 to 2020:

2019 2020
Possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography
16,939,877 21,669,264
Child Sex Tourism
683 955
Child Sex Trafficking
11,798 15,879
Misleading Domain Names
838 3,109

Misleading domain names is when a sex predator sets up a website with a domain that may contain words or the misspelling of words of popular TV shows or artists. When a child inadvertently searches for one of those shows but misspells it, the exploiter’s website pops up on the screen with pornographic images.

Facebook reported over 20 million instances of apparent child pornography to the Center. Many of those instances were on its Instagram platform. Sex predators have been known to use Instagram to search for risque photos and to contact children and teenagers through direct messages.

Exploiters also use smartphone apps to connect with and lure children into conversations and even in-person meetings. The website Omegle and apps Whisper and Kik allow for anonymous chats and sharing of images.

Parents cannot stand over their child or teenager’s shoulders all day, so what can they do to prevent them from being exploited? Walsh says parents should become familiar with websites and apps their kids are using.

“I understand many parents didn’t grow up with the internet and the knowledge gap can be so severe. But you can’t talk to your children about online safety without really having at least a rudimentary understanding of how some of those platforms work,” he said.

“Understand the technology and the best way to do that is to download the apps your children are using. Get on there yourself, sign up, get a profile, friend your child. Make sure you know how the platform works.

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