Reports of online child sexual abuse have increased 52% in last three years, nonprofit says

31.9 million tips about child sexual abuse material were received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last year

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Reports of children being sexually exploited online are on the rise.

“FBI Jacksonville is receiving reports of children being exploited online, every single day,” said FBI spokeswoman Amanda Videll.

Last week, News4JAX reported the arrest of a Clay County man accused of running a child sex trafficking ring. And a Camden County duo recently pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of producing and distributing child sex abuse material.

National data shows a rise in children being sexually exploited online and many of the adults responsible for exploiting the children are doing it solely for money.

“A lot of people are coming forward and sharing information that is allowing us to pursue cases, but that rise is a real concern to all our agents,” Videll said.

Data from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children paints a picture of the rise of child sexual exploitation cases being called into the cyber-tip line.

Three years ago, the tip line received more than 21 million tips about child sexual abuse material. The following year, that number jumped to more than 29 million. Then last year, the number jumped to 31.9 million.

Loren Coffren is an executive director for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. She said there is a driving force behind it.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing a rise in the amount of financially motivated child sexual exploitation. Just in the past year alone, we’ve seen an increase in sextortion of minors. Mostly, teenage male boys,” Coffren said.

According to authorities, this is when an adult poses as a young female and entices a teenage boy to email nude photos of himself to her. But once the perpetrator receives the photos, he or she extorts the boy by threatening to show the photos to the public if the boy does not pay the extorter money.

“They usually ask the child to pay whatever money they have so they are not making a lot of money off of this, but whatever their hope is all of this, whether it’s sexual gratification or financial gain, it is still illegal activity,” Videll said.

News4JAX also learned about another disturbing detail when it comes to children being exploited online. Parents are sometimes the ones producing explicit images of their own children and posting those images online. This is why the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children urges minors to talk to an adult they trust to report sexual misconduct, even if it means reporting on a family member.

“It’s okay to have these conversations and to talk about if any adult, including mom, dad, grandmom, and granddad, or any kind of relationship. If anyone makes you feel uncomfortable, who are the safe individuals in your life you can talk to?” Coffren said.

Coffren said, unfortunately, some children are exploited multiple times before authorities find out about it. This is because some children may be too afraid to report it.

If you know a child is being sexually exploited online, you are urged to call local authorities to report it.

You can also call the cyber-tip line at 1-800-THE-LOST.

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