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‘Smart Routers’ offer more parental control over social media

As the debate over regulating social media heats up, one company is urging parents to take matters into their own hands.

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As children have more and more unfettered access to the internet in the digital age, predators – which increasingly include other children – have more opportunities to groom and exploit unsuspecting kids, experts told Fox News Digital.

One in five children will experience sexual abuse before they turn 18, according to advocacy group Saprea.

Sixteen percent of young adults in the United States experience some type of sexual abuse online before they turn 18, according to a University of New Hampshire study. 

But although the internet has changed much of the landscape of child sex abuse, some constants remain – 53% of children abused online report that people they knew were the perpetrators. 


Child using computer

Sixteen percent of young adults in the U.S. experience some type of sexual abuse online before they turn 18, according to one study. (Getty Images)

Of all sex abuse against kids, 52% is perpetrated by other children, according to the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence. 

“The porn that’s being consumed nowadays is significantly more violent in nature. It’s also largely driven by video, which just by nature of the medium is more graphic and more intense,” Chris Yadon, managing director of Saprea, told Fox News Digital. “It’s hard to draw casual inferences, but our common sense tells us… it’s absolutely having an effect.”

Mike Nugent, who was a sex crimes investigator for 20 years, told Fox News Digital that the changing landscape has made it more difficult to pinpoint the reasons why children might victimize other children: 

“With the advent of the internet, these kids are learning this behavior not because they were abused but because they’re actually watching sexual assaults on social media sites and in the pornography world,” Nugent said. 


Boy with head in hands on computer

Sextortion is among the fastest-growing sex crimes, experts said, with teen boys being prime targets. (Getty Images)

Moreover, the growing prevalence of sextortion – where a victim is blackmailed with sexually compromising content for money, more explicit content or sexual favors – has ballooned in the past five years, Yadon said, with boys increasingly becoming targets. 

Yadon said sextortion is the fastest-growing type of sexual abuse among children and in general – FBI data indicates that the practice grew by over 20% between 2021 and 2023. It is the only type of sexual abuse where boys fall victim more frequently than girls, he said. 

“There is one aspect of sextortion that’s new – there’s a moneymaking component that criminals didn’t have before,” Yadon said. “[Through social media] the criminals now have better access to the children – previously, criminals didn’t have access to those children.

“Children being exposed to broad networks of people through social media, gaming platform, speaking through the web – it’s opened up channels for access.”

Callahan Walsh, who hosts the reboot of “America’s Most Wanted” along with his father and heads up the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s Florida branch office, identified another disturbing trend occurring online: predators compelling children to abuse one another for their own benefit. 

“What we see sometimes is a child will abuse another child or younger sibling at the request of an adult they met online,” Walsh said of the disturbing trend. “So while that abuse was technically committed by a child, they were in fact coerced by an older individual.”


Children increasingly abuse other children

Callahan Walsh, the Florida branch director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said adults are compelling children to abuse their peers and younger siblings in a disturbing new trend. (Getty Images)

But preventing children from stumbling upon pornographic material or interacting with someone who may take advantage of them sexually is more complex than just setting parental controls, Yadon said. 

“Putting a control on a device is a tactic based on a principle. It’s really important that parents learn the principles that reduce risk,” Yadon said. “I think parents are already responding. We’re seeing a shift in how parents introduce technology to their kids, at what age parents introduce technology to their kids. However, there’s still a significant number of parents that have not received that education or understand what they can do to reduce the risk .” 

It is important for parents to have honest conversations with their children about their online “footprint,” and to explain to them that everything they post and share leaves behind a trail of digital information about them, Yadon said.

“With the advent of the internet, these kids are learning this behavior not because they were abused but because they’re actually watching sexual assaults on social media sites and in the pornography world.”

— Mike Nugent, former sex crimes investigator

“I always tell my kids, digital is forever. A Polaroid, you can rip it up, [but] when you go digital, it’s forever,” Nugent told Fox News Digital. “With Snapchat they told you that if you delete that image, it’s gone forever. If you believe that, you might as well believe the moon is made of cheese.”

It’s also crucial to keep lines of communication open, and to make sure you’re someone your child can trust, Yadon said.

“The critical thing, though, the biggest thing that keeps the dialogue open is to not have any topics that are off limits,” he said. “Disciplining children is a critical part of parenting. If that discipline involves shutting down communication, I’m probably making a mistake as a parent… We can discipline our kids, but when we do it without shame, without stigma and without making topics taboo, we’re much more likely to keep those lines of communication open with our children.” 

Age-appropriate conversations about sex and sexual topics are crucial, too – many adults who experienced sexual abuse as children didn’t fully understand what was happening to them at the time, Yadon said. Saprea provides guides for what topics to bring up to children at what age to protect them from abuse, and questionnaires for parents to help them identify the potential difficult conversations that they are most uncomfortable broaching with their children. 


Jim Clemente, a former FBI profiler, stressed the importance of simply being involved in kids’ lives in the prevention of sex abuse.

“Parents already talk to their kids about bullies,” he told Fox News Digital. “They need to add an age appropriate talk about sex offenses… parents have to be responsible for having frank and open discussions with their children.”

Christina Coulter is a U.S. and World reporter for Fox News Digital. Email story tips to [email protected].

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