Texas children access the Internet all the time — using social media, instant messaging, apps on their smartphones and chat rooms. But dangerous child predators lurk online, too. They’re trying to gain children’s trust for evil purposes.
Recent studies show that 1 in 7 young people have experienced unwanted sexual solicitations online — and 1 in 3 have been exposed to unwanted sexual material online.
The Child Exploitation and Fugitive Apprehension Units, formed and overseen by the Office of the Attorney General, work relentlessly to keep our children and communities safe by arresting sexual predators/child pornographers and bringing them to justice.
The resources below are intended to help Texas parents protect their children’s safety — especially online.
10 -17 – Age range of children most often targeted by child predators online
527 – Arrests for online solicitation of a minor and promotion of child pornography in Texas
704 – Convictions for online solicitation of a minor and promotion of child pornography in Texas
Questions & Answers About Cyber Safety
How can I help fight back against online child predators?
Knowledge is power. Educate yourself — and your children — about cyber safety. Talk to your kids, nieces and nephews, and any adolescent who has access to the Internet about staying safe on the Internet.
Tell them: If they receive any inappropriate contact online, talk to you immediately. It’s OK. They won’t get into trouble. You’re there to help protect them.
As technology evolves, so do the tactics used by child predators. They may use social media, smartphone apps, chat rooms and more — all in an attempt to secure the trust of your children and convince them to meet in person.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children® has an online program that teaches kids and adults how to be safe online. Visit them at netsmartzkids.org
What is “sextortion”?
Sextortion is a tactic used by online predators to blackmail, groom, entice, coerce, lure and extort their victims into complying with their demands for sexual photos and videos.
These images are used by predators and, often, shared with other predators online. A single victim’s image might be shared with thousands of other predators.
Sextortion predators pose as the child’s peer (or someone of similar age) to gain their trust and illicit images. The predator will often threaten to share the victim’s photos online unless they receive more images.
If you suspect a child has been targeted for sextortion, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately. You can also simply dial 9-1-1.
What challenges does law enforcement face?
When it comes to finding, arresting and convicting online child predators, law enforcement agencies face several challenges. These include:
- Staying connected to what’s happening on the Internet both locally and across the globe
- Advances in technology (and the tactics that child predators use)
- The size and scope of the network of child predators who share images and tips with each other online
- The sheer amount of potential leads to follow: The FBI recently reported that on just one anonymous Internet network, Tor, 1.3 million sexually explicit images of children were discovered
What is the Child Exploitation Unit (CEU)?
Introduced in 2003 in order to address the limited resources law enforcement has to fight back against such a large, growing threat as Internet child predators, the CEU investigates and responds to complaints of child pornography online.
The CEU is affiliated with the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Internet Crime Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.” The Texas Attorney General’s CEU is one of three ICAC Tasks Forces Texas — the other two being the Dallas and Houston police departments.
Which laws protect children online?
The primary law to help protect children online is the “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).”
This law aims to protect children’s personal information on websites (and other Internet services, including apps) that are aimed at children under 13 years old. The law also applies to any general audience website that knows it is collecting personal info from children that age.
COPPA requires these sites and apps to notify parents directly and get their approval before they collect, use, or disclose a child’s personal information.
Additionally, there are other federal and state laws that address cyber safety for children. These include:
- Electronic communication providers and remote computer service providers must notify the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s (NCMEC) CyberTipline if a user commits a child pornography offense. (U.S. Code 2258A)
- It is illegal to solicit anyone under the age of 17 (minor) — or anyone the offender believes to be under the age of 17 — online for sexual contact or to have sexually explicit communication. (Texas Penal Code 33.021)
- It is illegal to possess or promote child pornography. (Texas Penal Code 43.26)
How You Can Help
Here is a collection of helpful resources from around the Web that will help you protect your children online.
Information on youth safety and social media
Chatting with Kids About Being Online
Guidance for parents and teachers
Department of Homeland Security messages and tools to promote cyber safety
Reporting suspected child sexual exploitation or child pornography
Texas Education Agency resources
Parents’ guide to Internet lingo