COLORADO SPRINGS – Tuesday is Safer Internet Day and the Colorado Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is encouraging parents to take a more active role in what their kids are doing online.
The task force processed a record 2,600 tips related to potential cases of child pornography and child luring in 2018. Many were flagged by the big tech companies who then relayed the information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The NCMEC then distributes those leads to the Colorado Springs Police Department which heads the ICAC Task Force in Colorado.
The program was started February 1, 1999, less than six months after Google had launched. It was a time before smartphones and tablets.
“Back then, it was a lot smaller internet, and I don’t think anyone knew how big it was going to be today,” said Sgt. Jason Ledbetter of the CSPD.
Today, families are more connected to digital devices than ever before. That easy access to the cyber world also correlates with the growth in child exploitation cases. Ledbetter said the number tips grew by 38 percent over 2017. The most common cases involve teenagers and pre-teens who shared naked images of themselves online, a crime known as self-production of child pornography.
“A lot of times when we’re doing presentations for prevention I tell people you don’t know your photo’s fate once you send something,” Ledbetter said. “And once it’s out of your hands, you don’t have a choice anymore and it can be shared exponentially.”
He says parents need to know who their kids are communicating with online now more than ever.
“The friends that your kids have on social media, or online, should be the friends they have in person, someone they know personally and that you approve of as a parent,” Ledbetter said.
He discourages young people from sharing any images of themselves with someone online that they haven’t met in person. Another big red flag is if someone online asks your child to communicate with on a different application.
Ledbetter said that child should notify their parent or a trusted adult right away.
For more resources on internet safety, visit the Colorado Internet Crimes Against Children, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and NetSmartz.org.