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State reporting a record number of cyber crimes against children this year

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 7:27 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - The Coronavirus pandemic has millions around the country upping the amount of time they spend online, that includes those working from home, and students who are at home with virtual learning. The increased time online is leading to an alarming trend. The State Bureau of Investigation is reporting a record breaking number of child exploitation cyber tips.

The SBI’s Computer Crimes Unit says they’ve seen an unprecedented number of cyber tips, which are reports that show child exploitation. In all of 2019, the SBI reported 4,892 cyber tips. But by June 30, 2020, they had received 4,641 and as of September 30th, that number has climbed to 6,203.

Assistant Special Agent In-charge, Kevin Roughton, with the SBI’s Computer Crimes unit, blames the amount of time people are spending online for the increase. “We’re seeing a skyrocketing trend in the number of children being exploited and the number of children that are being solicited just based on how many people are being online at the same time,” said Roughton.

Cyber tips are typically reported after an incident has already happened, and often times occur after an adult solicits a child for sexually explicit photos. “Until I got into this world, I never realized how many children were in danger on an ongoing basis and especially this year,” said Roughton.

Both investigators with the SBI and local law enforcement say parents are the main factor in prevention. They say parents must take an active role in their child’s time online to help keep them safe.

“Parents a lot of time are intimidated by the technology, they don’t understand the latest apps or they don’t understand how the latest communications happen, so it’s really a conversation with your child about what app they are using or about who they are talking to,” Roughton explained.

Detective Chris Christopher with the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office says parents shouldn’t be afraid to get involved. “There is nothing wrong with taking your kid’s device and going through it from time to time just to make sure that they are complying with your rules and regulations,” said Christopher.

The Pitt County Sheriff’s office says they are seeing a rise in the number of teens sending sexually explicit photos to other teens, they say in that case it’s important for teens to understand the danger of sending those types of photos. Detective Christopher says his team will typically spend time talking to the child and their parents about how photos like that can stay on the internet forever.

Both Detective Christopher and Special Agent Roughton say it’s important for parents to be open to talking to their children about the dangers of speaking with strangers on the internet and say monitoring social media usage needs to be an ongoing job for parents.

Special Agent Roughton says parents should also report any suspicious activity they notice to local authorities.

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