Facts Regarding Child Grooming, Sextortion and Underage Exposure to Pornography
“Experts say 1 in 4 victims of Sextortion were under 13 [years of age] when threatened, and 2 in 3 victims were girls threatened before the age of 16.” – Fox News Report, “Juvenile Falls Victim to Sextortion Scam”
A recent 2022 study conducted by Common Sense Media has found that the majority of teen respondents age 13 to 17 have watched pornography online and that some have seen it by age 10 or even younger with the average age of first exposure being 12. A quick synopsis of the report reads:
- 15% said they first saw online pornography at age 10 or younger. The average age reported is 12.
- 44% have seen it intentionally. Additionally, 58% have seen it accidentally.
- 71% who said they have intentionally watched pornography reported viewing it in the last week.
- Unintentional exposure to pornography could be a common experience for teens, as 63% of those who said they have only seen pornography accidentally reported that they had been exposed to pornography in the past week.
- 45% felt that online pornography gives helpful information about sex.
This is very much in line with The Third Talk’s® own 2021 interviews with young people exposed to online pornography as early as age 7. And that was a decade or more ago, as these young people are now moving into adulthood. With ever-increasing growth in technology and dependence on it as a learning tool, it’s not a problem that’s going away. According to Kevin Roughton, Commander of the North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, in 2019 – just in the state of North Carolina – the number of Cyber Tips received by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force were 4,930 for the year. In 2020 children were sent into virtual learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic and by year’s end, that number nearly doubled. By March of 2022, the number shot to 18,332.
So what does this mean? It means that children are online more than ever before, most are watching pornography on purpose or accidentally, and they are becoming desensitized to unrealistic depictions of intimacy that reduce people to body parts. A 2016 BBC articles states:
One 11-year-old girl told researchers: “I didn’t like it because it came on by accident and I don’t want my parents to find out and the man looked like he was hurting her. He was holding her down and she was screaming and swearing.”
A 13-year-old boy said: “One of my friends has started treating women like he sees on the videos – not major – just a slap here or there.”
“It can make a boy not look for love, just look for sex, and it can pressure us girls to act and look and behave in a certain way before we might be ready for it,” said one 13-year-old girl.
Another 13-year-old girl said: “A few of my friends have used it for guidance about sex and are getting the wrong image of relationships.”
In the 2021 interviews conducted by The Third Talk® with 10 adults and 1 minor, ages cited for first viewing online pornography were 7, 9, 11 and 12. All discussed either their own online pornography addictions as a minor or a friend’s online pornography addiction as a minor. Devices cited were home computers, an iPod Touch and gaming devices, and exposure ranged from innocent searches to popup ads. Issues stemming from porn addiction discussed were mental health issues, self-hatred, shame, body dysmorphia, an unhealthy view of the opposite sex, and in more extreme cases, abusive sexual relationships as a minor. Two interviewees discussed being the person to discuss not watching pornography with their siblings because their parents were not going to have the conversation with them. A young man named Donovan specifically addressed the issue of Grooming.
“There have been thousands of documents worth of research that show how pornography has been used by human traffickers and child predators to groom children into being more open to having sex with them.”
So what is “Grooming”? Specifically, “Child Grooming”?
According to Wikipedia’s definition of “Child Grooming”:
“Child grooming is befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a minor under the age of consent, and sometimes the child’s family, to lower the child’s inhibitions with the objective of sexual abuse. Child grooming is also used to lure minors into various illicit businesses such as child trafficking, child prostitution, cybersex trafficking, or the production of child pornography.”
But how do predators actually go about grooming children? One Mom on TikTok shared an experience where she intercepted a stranger trying to groom her twelve-year-old daughter through Pinterest. In this encounter – where her and her daughter’s Pinterest accounts are attached – she said she received a notification that someone was trying to message her daughter’s account. Speaking directly into her phone’s camera, she recounted the incident.
“I asked her, ‘Hey, do you know who this is? If it’s one of your friends, then you’re going to have to message through your phone.’ She said, ‘No, I don’t know who that is.’ The profile appeared to be a fourteen-year-old girl… So I took a look at the profile and then I messaged back, on her account… and said, ‘Hey do I know you?’ They said, ‘Nah.’ I talk about this a lot – I know what this is. This is not actually another kid. And I just, I have a feeling. So, we continue this conversation and immediately, immediately they say, ‘Can I tell you something? I figured out the other day I’m bi[sexual].’ It’s just like 3 words into this conversation. Obviously Red Flag #1 – unprovoked information about sexuality.”
“Riada” goes on to say that the next question is “Where are you from?” followed by a question about age, to which Mom responded, “thirteen,” and they responded “fourteen.” The next strategy is to move the conversation from Pinterest – where sharing “Pins” are allowed, but not personal images. They wanted to message on Instagram, but when Mom said she didn’t have an Instagram account, the predator suggested WhatsApp.
“On Pinterest you cannot send pictures. All you can send are “Pins.” On Instagram and WhatsApp, you can send pictures. This is a common tactic to get the child off of the original platform that they reach out to them on, to a place where they can eventually send pictures.”
Which leads us to Sextortion.
In 2022, John Van Arnam, Founder of The Third Talk®, was interviewed by Fox News regarding “Sextortion Scams.”
“We, as adults, are just becoming comfortable enough with the understanding that this is happening to all of our children.”
“Sextortion Scams” are situations where young people are asked to send nude photos of themselves to predators and are then extorted for favors or money. In a 2016 Washington Post article, reporter Donna St. George writes:
Increasing reports of sextortion led the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to conduct a recent study of 800 sextortion cases, finding that 78 percent of the victims were girls, with an average age of 15, [Michelle] DeLaune said.
In 6 percent of cases examined, the offender threatened to distribute the images if the child did not meet them in person.
“The threat and the impact of these situations is significant,” DeLaune said. “The children find themselves in situations they don’t know how to get out of.”
The alarming facts are not just that children are being exposed to dangerous content that is molding unhealthy views around intimacy and sexuality, it’s the realization that this content may be the very thing creating a wave of predators and predatory behavior that leads to assault, child-on-child crimes, dating violence sextortion and human trafficking.
The Third Talk’s mission is to help parents have the porn-prevention conversation with their kids. The online dangers are real, and no one else is as equipped to have this conversation. Through the Parent’s Guide, we help your child avoid all the dangers that come with watching this content: depression, aggression, assault, loneliness, addiction, sextortion, grooming and human trafficking. Don’t be the parent that thinks it won’t or can’t happen to their kids. Author Deborah Berry spoke at The Third Talk’s “A Critical Dialogue About Our Children & Technology” seminar about her own experience with her twelve-year-old daughter that she almost lost to a predator:
“If you had told me, back in 2016, that I would be fighting the fight of my life to save my child and that my world would go upside down because she had become involved with internet sexual predators, I would have said, ‘No way. Not me.’ I talk to my child, I’m a stay-at-home mom, we have these conversations, we live in a nice neighborhood, she goes to nice schools, we go to church on Sunday. As it turns out it was me and it was my daughter.”
You are not alone and we have several resources to help you, Parents. The Parent’s Guide makes an awkward conversation easy. If you still don’t feel confident starting this conversation, John offers Private Consultations. If you are a Teacher, Principal, Peace Officer or Community Leader, reach out and Request an Appearance so John can speak to members of your community in your school, church and preferred community venues. We also encourage you to Donate. We can’t do this alone. This is a movement that is going to take all of our effort and we appreciate your help!
Parent’s Guide: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/the-third-talk-parents-guide/
Request an Appearance: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/book-the-third-talk/
1. Fox News Interviews John Van Arnam Regarding Sextortion Scams: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/fox-news-interviews-john-van-arnam-regarding-sextortion-scams/
2. Common Sense Media Report, “Teens and Pornography”: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/research/report/2022-teens-and-pornography-final-web.pdf
3. Youth speaking to camera during an interview conducted by The Third Talk® regarding underage exposure to pornography and pornography addiction, October 2021: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/young-person-testimonials/
4. The Correlation Between Human Trafficking & Internet Usage Among Minors: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/the-correlation-between-human-trafficking-internet-usage-among-minors/
5. BBC article, Pornography ‘desensitising young people’: https://www.bbc.com/news/education-36527681
6. The Problem and The Solution to the Human Trafficking Crisis in the U.S.: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/the-problem-and-the-solution-to-the-human-trafficking-crisis-in-the-u-s/
7. American Bar Association, “Understanding Sexual Grooming in Child Abuse Cases”: https://www.americanbar.org/groups/public_interest/child_law/resources/child_law_practiceonline/child_law_practice/vol-34/november-2015/understanding-sexual-grooming-in-child-abuse-cases/
8. Wikipedia, “Child Grooming”: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_grooming
9. Mom TikToker and Child Sexual Assault Survivor: https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRpjsv7g/
10. NCMEC, “Sextortion”: https://www.missingkids.org/sextortion
11. The Washington Post, “As online ‘sextortion’ against children grows, feds urge back-to-school awareness”: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/online-sextortion-against-children-growing-feds-urge-back-to-school-awareness/2016/09/19/395a6cbe-7b5b-11e6-beac-57a4a412e93a_story.html
12. Underage Porn Consumption and Sexual Violence Among Adolescents: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/underage-porn-consumption-and-sexual-violence-among-adolescents/
13. The Correlation Between Human Trafficking & Internet Usage Among Minors: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/the-correlation-between-human-trafficking-internet-usage-among-minors/
14. Who Should Be Having The Porn-Prevention Conversation With Our Kids?: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/who-should-be-having-the-porn-prevention-conversation-with-our-kids/
15. A Critical Dialogue About Our Children & Technology Seminar Highlights: https://www.thethirdtalk.org/a-critical-dialogue-about-our-children-technology-seminar-highlights/