ANNAPOLIS, Md. (WDVM) — The Maryland State Police are working to protect children online, especially as cases of children being stalked and pursued on the internet have shot up during the pandemic.
This year’s Safer Internet Day — which took place on Tuesday — aimed to tackle “sextortion,” which is when people blackmail victims by threatening to release revealing photos and videos to the public.
According to the MSP, one in six children between the ages of 9 and 17 have shared nude pictures of themselves. And of those kids, around 40% sent the pictures to people who they thought were adults.
A member of Maryland’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force said parents should focus on drawing boundaries with their kids, and not letting these things happen behind their backs.
“It’s amazing how many parents are not aware of what the danger is online,” said Joe Dugan, an internet safety specialist with MSP. “When they go to a playground, we go there and supervise them. When they go online, we need to be online to supervise them, also.”
Dugan reminded parents that young boys are also likely to fall victim to sextortion, and also need to have open conversations about the dangers of talking to strangers online and sharing sensitive images.
Maryland’s ICAC Task Force also specializes in teaching internet safety to parents and children in as low as the fourth grade. These sessions are free, and anyone who would like to book one can email Joe Dugan at firstname.lastname@example.org.