The Child Pornography Risk Surges With The Pandemic

Eric Joyce, a former Labor Member of Parliament in the UK, has been sentenced after admitting to possessing a 51-second film on a device showing "the sexual abuse of very young children," according to court records.

The 59-year-old man accessed the category A film ("the most serious there is"), between August 2013 and November 2018. The film featured what appeared to be the sexual abuse of different children between the ages of one and seven.

The man was arrested in 2018. Police seized "a number of computer devices and hard drives in November 2018" following an intelligence report. The man claimed he had never viewed the material; however, investigators analyzed his computer and proved he had. In addition, he had made several searches for material involving "five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10-year-old girls."

The presiding judge pointed out that the abuse of the children occurred because there are people like Joyce who want to watch these films.

The judge imposed a sentence of eight months in prison, suspended for two years. Joyce must complete 150 hours of unpaid work. "Eric Joyce: Ex-Labour MP sentenced for child sex offence" www.bbc.com (Aug. 07, 2020).

Commentary and Checklist

Child pornography, a form of child sexual abuse, is a pervasive, world-wide problem. According to an investigation conducted by The New York Times, technology firms flagged more than 45 million photos and videos as child sexual abuse in 2019. This figure more than doubled in one year.

In addition, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a record 18 million tips to its hotline in 2019. By comparison, the tip line received a total of 565,000 calls during its first 10 years, between 1998 and 2008.

In another report, child pornography complaints have doubled since March 2020, around the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a New York State Police report the number of complaints in March, April, and May jumped from 1,339 last year to 2,640 for the same period this year.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also reported that complaints of child pornography in the national level increased from about 3 million last year to 7.7 million during the same period this year.

As the judge stated in the case in the source article, the abuse of children will not stop for as long as there are people who create and watch these films.

It is up to parents and other safe adults, therefore, to help protect children from becoming victims of child pornography and other forms of cyber exploitation.

Here are some child pornography prevention strategies:

  • Understand child sexual abuse and communicate to children the facts and dangers regarding cyber exploitation.
  • Set rules for computer and mobile device use.
  • Keep computers in public areas of the home and monitor children's online activity. Know the child's passwords to computer, email, and social media accounts.
  • Monitor a child's mobile devices for sites visited, email, cell phone, and text use, and let the child know you are doing it.
  • Teach the child what personal information is and to never share it with people outside the family. Help the child make location, gender, and age neutral email addresses.
  • Instruct children to use privacy settings on social media sites and also remind them that even high privacy settings do not guarantee their personal information will not be shared. Know who the child's social media friends are.
  • Encourage the child to show you inappropriate email, texts, and social media posts. Save them or take screen shots as evidence of cyber exploitation.
  • Remind the child that anything posted on the Internet stays on the Internet forever. Teach the child emails, posts, images, and texts cannot be kept private. They can be shared and forwarded.
  • Advise the child not to respond to online bullying or online sexual activity. Report any cyber incidents involving children that are sexual in nature.
  • Change the child's phone number if he or she is receiving bullying, threatening, or sexual texts and/or calls.
  • Contact websites and request they remove any websites or accounts that exploit the child.
  • Children have access to the Internet in many places-friends, school, library, coffee shops, etc. Discourage children from accessing the Internet from unfiltered locations.
  • Instruct a child never to meet someone he or she met online unless a trusted adult is present.
  • Approve all images, videos, and blogs before the child posts them.
  • Explain to the child that forwarding sexting pictures of minors (children under 18 years old) is illegal even if the person who posts or forwards them is minor or even if the minor consents. It will be considered a crime: distributing child pornography. Remind your child of potential humiliation, embarrassment, and risk associated with sexting.
  • Listen to the child. Children do send signs and signals that communicate something is wrong. Keep lines of communication open and encourage the child to share any bad online experiences.
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