Avast survey, data on minors exposure to sex offenders

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Over the past few days, Brazilians were frightened by the news of a ten-year-old girl who was sexually abused for years by her uncle – a crime that resulted in the child’s pregnancy.

As a result, there is also a growing concern among parents about the exposure of their children to criminals on the Internet, who can approach minors and influence them to send photos of sexual content or even try to arrange face-to-face meetings. In a survey commissioned by Avast it was revealed that 63% of Brazilian parents fear that their children’s photos that their children’s photos will be seen by sexual abusers and that they will contact them on social media.

Still based on research, the cybersecurity company supported a Czech documentary, called “V Sití: In the Net”, in which three adults create profiles on the internet and, in them, pretend to be minors. During a ten-day period alone, the “minors” were approached by more than 2,400 possible sex offenders.

To protect children, however, experts point out that the use of software is not very effective in these cases, since most criminals use methods that are more difficult to monitor:

The approach – whereby sexual abusers gain the trust of a minor to meet or coerce them to share sexual content online – is difficult to control, as people use social engineering tactics to get the trust of the youngest. Instead of using a phishing or malicious file / link tactic in an email that the antivirus software could detect and block, the approach is made via online chat or via electronic messages. Therefore, it is almost impossible to trace without approaching the victim. This can cause many issues like children or teenagers trusting strangers, adults manipulating children and sexually abusing.

Julia Szymanska
Avast Child Safety Ambassador.

How to protect more children who have profiles on the internet

To circumvent these practices and prevent the exposure of minors, the company shared some tips that can be crucial in protecting children:

  • Parents should avoid letting their children connect to the internet without their presence. It is always convenient to have a trusted adult around the children when they are online, so that they can consult him and so that parents are aware of what the child is doing in the digital universe;
  • Parents should occasionally check what children are doing on the internet and encourage regular conversations about online safety;
    It is essential for parents to talk to their children, but it is also relevant for children and adolescents to learn technical skills at school. From an early age, children need to learn what phishing is like, how to react if a stranger sends a message on social media, what privacy settings should be defined and why they are important and how to better deal with cyberbullying;
  • Among the signs that a child is being approached by an abuser include radical changes in the child’s behavior, for example: if she is anxious, she never leaves her cell phone unattended or often “disappears” (hides) with her mobile device ;
  • Parents who observe suspicious behavior should create a welcoming atmosphere for their child, creating an opportunity for frank conversation. The parents’ first reaction can be crucial: instead of banning access to the internet, parents should help the child get professional support and encourage them to open up about their experiences.
  • If a parent’s suspicion is proven, it is essential to retain the evidence of inappropriate conversations and report it to the police. Typically, abusers approach several children at the same time, and this type of evidence can be crucial in stopping abuse.
  • It is important to mention that, according to Szymanska, simply banning access to the internet may not be as effective in protecting minors:

The internet may seem like a world to be discovered for children, but it is important that they learn that everything that happens in digital, on their tablets, smartphones and computers, can have consequences in the real world. Children are very intelligent and many technical measures adopted by parents, children can certainly figure out how to get around them. Therefore, it is essential that parents are aware of the existing risks and do not rely too much on the technical measures they have taken to protect their children, all the time. Parents should always be close to their children and openly discuss potential risks with them before anything happens.
It is worth remembering that a study by Kaspersky revealed that 49% of Brazilian children already use a connected device, such as smartphones or tablets, for example, before the age of six.


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