Online sexual exploitation of children is an urgent and exponentially growing problem. Recent research shows 1 in 3 children can now expect to have an unwelcome sexual experience online before they turn 18. Despite the risks, 97% of children use social media and the internet every day, and 1 in 5 use it “almost constantly.” Parents often don’t know the risks or feel unable to keep their kids safe on social media. ParentsTogether surveyed 1000 parents across the U.S. to better understand how parents experience this problem.
Here are some of the most important things we learned:
- Parents reported online sexual exploitation on every major social media platform
- 1 in 3 children are exposed to social media before they turn 5
- 43% of children exposed to inappropriate sexual content on social media are under 13; 1 in 5 are 9 or younger
- A stranger has contacted 1 in 3 kids online, 47% of whom are under 13.
- LGBTQ+ kids are sexually exploited online at 3x the rate of their peers.
- Disabled and special needs kids are sexually exploited online at 2x the rate of their peers.
- 95% of parents support legislation to regulate social media companies
Talk to Your Kids
Frequent, honest, and trust-building conversations about sexual risks and harms online between parents and children can help keep them safer online. Here are some resources for talking to your kids about this topic:
- Lean on Me: A caregiver’s guide to safeguarding children and supporting healing from sexual abuse (RAINN)
- Jumpstart your dialogues about online safety (Thorn)
- Medically accurate and age-appropriate sexual education (Amaze)
- NetSmartz online safety education (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)
- Sex Ed To Go (Planned Parenthood)
- Script for talking to kids about staying safe online (ParentsTogether)
- Sex-Positive Parenting: What You Need to Know (ParentsTogether)
- What if my child sees something inappropriate online? A guide for parents (ParentsTogether – Instagram)
- Script for helping kids make online friends SAFELY (ParentsTogether – Instagram)
Remove Your Child’s Explicit Content
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has a free service to help people who have images or videos of themselves nude, partially nude, or in sexually explicit situations taken when they were under the age of 18 that they believe have been or will be shared online. If your child or someone they know is concerned about explicit content of theirs being shared online, they can get help.
Parents are leading a growing movement for online safety and accountability for the tech platforms putting children at risk. Bipartisan bills, which would require tech companies to design products with children’s safety and wellbeing in mind, are being considered in states across the country. Parents are also demanding platforms take direct action to turn off dangerous features like location sharing by default, protect children’s privacy online, and make it harder for predators to find kids on social media. Click below to take action.
Spread the Word
A new survey from @ParentsTogether asked 1000 parents about their children’s experience with online sexual exploitation. They reported being scared about what their kids are seeing online & uncertain about how to protect their kids. Learn more https://ptnani.org/yl7 #KidsOnlineSafety
A new survey from @ParentsTogether is sounding the alarm on online sexual exploitation of kids – very young children are being exposed to inappropriate sexual content, asked for explicit images, and sharing those images. Read more of the findings and how to keep your family safe here: https://ptnani.org/5db