Education / Article

Sweetie Identifies 1000 Offenders; About to Get a Younger Sister

According to UN and FBI estimates, at any given moment, there are 750.000 men online who browse child pornography. If that number gives you as a parent the shivers, you should meet Sweetie.

She is 10 years old, comes from the Philippines and spends her time talking to these men. Oh, and one more thing – she is not real. Rather, she is a computer simulation of a child, created by a group of Dutch researchers at Terre des Hommes, a non-profit organization. In only two months, Sweetie was able to attract the attention of 20,000 online predators, identifying 1000 of them.

Of course, she has sent all this information directly to the Interpol.

Unfortunately, this type of harassment of children on the Internet does not end with a mere virtual contact. In most cases, these predators are active and willing to give money to children in exchange for fulfillment of their orders − in front of the camera. Some of them even seek to meet in person.

Researchers in Terre des Homes were able to identify a profile of this type of predator: wealthy and looking for children from poor countries, but that doesn’t mean that kids from well-off countries aren’t at risk.

The good news is that the success against offenders has encouraged the researchers to start working on Sweetie’s younger sister − prosaically named Sweetie 2.0. Her goal? 45.000 chat rooms worldwide where predators look for their next victim. Her mission? To deter these malicious actions, identify the offenders, and in cooperation with the authorities, press charges.

All of the above is why educating your child about sensible online behavior is essential and can even prevent their exposure to risk. In short, if the kids know of the potential dangers, there is a bigger chance they’ll stay safe and protected in the virtual world and beyond.

But parents should stay active as well and not let their young children browse the web freely, without oversight or guidance. Accompanying them in the use of technology from day one helps to ensure they enjoy safe browsing and steer clear of potential dangers.

Also, there are practical tools that can make parenting in the digital age a bit easier. One way is to oversee their children’s online activity, which is the domain of ESET Parental Control for Android. With its help, adults can blacklist harmful websites and allow their kids’ surfing only on the appropriate ones. They can also limit their internet or game time.

Contrary to what you may think, this type of online parenting does not have to be all about repression. It can also give a voice to the children. For instance, if they’ve done all their chores and finished homework, they can ask for permission to extend play time or browse sites you have previously blocked. But chiefly, it helps parents to keep a healthy dialogue with their kids about all things online.  This is also key to keeping them safe from the predators out there.

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