So online ogres entice children and teens

What tricks do orcs use to lure their victims online? What language, what offers, what ways not to make the biggest suspect. The pandemic has profoundly changed our relationship with the Internet. Especially for the little ones: For the past two years, social networks and online messaging apps have represented the only space for socialization, learning and exploration for Italian children. A place safe from viruses, but not without dangers.

Parents, go online to protect your children from the dark sides of social media

by Giuseppe Lavenia

The hunting ground

Orcs 2.0 has made the web their hunting ground. They know the habits of the little ones, their meeting places. They use social networks and online video games to get in touch with the victims. They gain their trust and take action with harassment, flattery and threats, requests for sexually motivated images and videos, to off-line meetings. The phenomenon has grown dramatically over the last two years, so much so that the National Center for Combating Online Child Pornography under the Post Police and Save the Children has created a guide that provides parents with practical information for preventing online bait. on the occasion of the national day against online child pornography, which takes place on 5 May.

A growing phenomenon

Along with the guide, a dossier has also been published which reveals the proportions of the phenomenon with a shocking clarity. In 2021 – it turns out by reading the document – the number of child pornography faced by the Italian postal police increased by 47% and reached a record number of 5,316. The number of minors abused online by adults has also grown at the same rate: 531 children in 2021, the majority between the ages of 10 and 13, the group is considered to be most vulnerable. The preferred access channel is social networks and messaging apps, but the data show that the meeting in an increasing number of cases today takes place on online video games. Platforms equipped with private chats and virtual ecosystems designed for socializing, where children feel safe, and where parents often let their guards down, convinced that these are places dedicated solely to play.

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Online care and gaming

Groomers, that is, pedophiles who are active in online grooming, have shown that they know the potential of this new medium well. These are subjects with in-depth knowledge of the languages, usage habits and fragility of their victims. And to which gaming platforms have offered the opportunity to have additional benefits to offer to the little ones, in the form of skins, items and other services that can be purchased in games that groomers can use as a bargaining chip to lure their victims.

Operating mode

The pedophile’s first move is usually aimed at initiating contact with the victim. He can leave a funny comment below a picture posted on a social profile, or give an opinion about a gameplay action in a video game. At that time – explain the experts from the postal police – he collects information about the minor, and a lot wins his trust: For girls he can use compliments and seduction techniques, for boys to exploit the passion for sports or video games.

Who are the groomers

Hairdressers know how to use emoticons, stickers and youth slang, deal with topics of an intimate nature and exchange images with victims, at first even of a non-sexual nature. Once trust is gained, the phase of exclusivity and isolation begins: the lure expresses an exclusive sentimental interest, often talking about a secret love that no one should know. If successful, we move on to requests for explicit photographs and webcam contacts, often released as signs of love, which can later be used to get the victim to provide other sexual material or even come to an off-date meeting. .

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How to defend yourself

To protect your children from this kind of harassment, experts’ advice is not to let your guard down: Do not assume that the autonomy that children show in the use of digital technologies also enables them to deal with any problems. . Children may not be aware that on the other side of a chat there may be someone who is much older than them and with bad intentions. And in some cases, the age difference may be known and be part of the attraction the addict exerts on the victim, who may feel safe in a virtual relationship without realizing that images and confidences he could share with his interlocutor will come. .. spread rapidly in the pedophile’s network of contacts.

Nothing online is harmless

Therefore, it should be well explained to your children that it is not appropriate to share personal information and photos with strangers. That even in seemingly harmless contexts like a video game, older people with intentions other than the game can hide, and that they should immediately talk to their parents about any questionable or disturbing requests. In case of suspicion, such as the discovery that the child has chatted about sex, sent nude photos or videos to older people, or just reveal details of his daily life to someone – the frequency of gyms, speakers, music strings – the recommendation is to contact the authorities as soon as possible by going to a postal police or on the website

as well as the number of minors contacted online by adults, corresponding to 531. This is revealed in the dossier “Sexual abuse on the Internet to the detriment of minors”, set up by the National Center for Combating Online Child Pornography by the Post Police in collaboration with Save the Children and published together with a parenting guide to preventing calls online on the occasion of National Day Against Online Child Pornography, which takes place on May 5th.

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