The Internet Watch Foundation said it is the first time it has seen such young children subjected to this kind of abuse
Children as young as between three and six years old are becoming the latest victims in a growing trend of self-generated child sexual abuse, a report from an internet safety watchdog has said.
The Internet Watch Foundation said over a one month period it saw 51 examples of self-generated abuse imagery – where children are manipulated into recording their own abuse before it is shared online – including a child aged between three and six. More than half of the cases involved a sibling or friend of the child.
“Such young children being subjected to this kind of abuse is an emerging phenomenon – it is not something we have really seen before and this is the first time we have produced definitive data on it,” said Susie Hargreaves, IWF chief executive. “Our frontline analysts are now seeing younger and younger children being approached, groomed and coerced by predators online.”
The IWF, which operates a UK hotline but also reports on instances of child sexual abuse material [CSAM] around the world, said the self-generated content is created using webcams or smartphones and then distributed on a number of platforms. It said two-thirds of the reports, which were registered between 11 October and 10 November last year, were either duplicated images or videos, or contained the same children appearing more than once.
“In some cases, children are groomed, deceived or extorted into producing and sharing a sexual image or video of themselves. The images are created of children often in their bedrooms or another room in a home setting and no abuser is physically present but may be present virtually via the internet,” said the IWF.
The IWF said the instances of self-generated CSAM for three to six year olds showed the young victims “performing” as if in a show. “It’s evident this is not the first time this has happened to them and they are obviously trying to ‘please’ an audience, unaware of the inappropriateness being asked of them,” said the IWF. It added: “In many of the videos, phones can be heard buzzing and the children then pause to read and carry out a different request, often not hesitating at what is being asked of them.”
The IWF said several images and videos appeared to show children intently looking into the camera, presumably to read or view something and then replicate it.
The findings were included in IWF’s annual report, which underline the predominance of self-generated images in CSAM cases. It said 2021 was its worst year on record for child sexual abuse online as it reported 252,000 URLs containing images or videos of children – people under the age of 18 – being sexually abused, compared with 153,000 in the previous year. Of that total, there were 182,000 instances of self-generated material, with the biggest age group within that segment being 11 to 13 year olds, where there were 148,000 reports.
“As recently as six years ago, we were seeing so-called self-generated material beginning to emerge as a threat. Now it is not only a regular thing we see – it is prevalent,” said Hargreaves.
Source: The GuardianCategories: News