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Despicable Online Predators Harming Children

Parents have another vector of potential harm to monitor besides the most popular social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and X. Bad actors are collaborating on different internet platforms to contact, and actively harm, children, adolescents, and teenagers.

It’s true that plenty of internet safety threats are overblown and exaggerated to create clickbait stories that prey on parents' worst fears. Yet, with growing regularity, some of these fears end up quite justified.

These predatory groups are known for building rapport with their victims and then using blackmail techniques to leverage them into risky behavior. These relationships start friendly but quickly transition into bullying, and often result in the children engaging in self-harm and, in some cases, suicide.

Many users involved in these groups often trade tips and strategies on how to most effectively manipulate their marks, and trade pictures as proof. As a result, many of these forums contain the widespread dissemination of photos showing self-harm.

Most of the activity is happening on Discord and Telegram, which both have extensive features that can facilitate audio and video chatting. Telegram’s communication channels are also encrypted, which makes it difficult for law enforcement agencies to monitor.

Both Telegram and Discord have repeatedly stated that such behavior is a violation of their terms of service, and claim to be working with law enforcement to investigate and remove these users from their networks.

“People are not understanding the severity, the speed at which their children can become victimized,” said Abbigail Beccaccio, who heads the FBI’s Child Exploitation Operational Unit. “These are offenders that have the ability to change your child’s life in a matter of minutes.”

Possible Preaching Angle:

While part of raising children right involves increasing their autonomy and helping them to make their own decisions, parents still must remain vigilant and watchful around their children’s habits, especially their habits online.

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