Revealed: How digital serial killers target children online

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) is sounding an alarm over a surge in paedophiles on social media sites. 

The children's charity, NSPCC reports that predators have been recorded grooming children online 5,161 times in the past 18 months. It was also revealed that there were nearly 2,000 grooming cases in the six months to September 2018 alone.

The report shows that paedophiles are targeting children as young as five years old, and girls aged 12 to 15 are most at risk.

A mother's disturbing discovery on YouTube Kids recently left many parents with more questions than answers after what she thought was "a simple, innocent cartoon" turned out to be 'suicide tutorial for kids.'

According to Yahoo News, a man known as Filthy Frank was edited into the video and was actually teaching kids how to slit their wrists and commit suicide.

Various media reports say that fans of Filthy Frank are known to edit him into videos and this could possibly be the case with this cartoon.

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The American mom, who is also a doctor wrote on the PediMom blog that, "this video was intentionally planted on YouTube Kids to harm our children. He waited until parents' guards were down, thinking their kids were just watching a harmless cartoon when he made his entrance four minutes and forty-five seconds into this video."

In Kenya, a 16-year-old boy committed suicide in 2017 at their home in Kamukunji, Nairobi, after playing an online game that encourages one to take his or her life.

Jamie Njenga, a Form Two student at JG Kiereini Secondary School in Kiambu County, had on played the online game Blue Whale Challenge before killing himself.

The game has 50 challenges and the player is considered the winner when he or she goes through the last challenge, at which he or she is required to commit suicide.

There are reports that so far, the game has claimed more than 100 lives of teenagers across the world.

According to reports, when a player signs up for the game, they are assigned an administrator who provides them with a daily task to complete for 50 days. They are required to send photographic proof via WhatsApp of each completed task.

These tasks are initially simple enough, such as watching a horror movie or waking up at odd hours but these eventually require the player to inflict harm upon themselves.

Jamie's grandfather, John Njenga, who has a hotel in Nyamakima, Nairobi, told the police the youngster used a rope to hang himself on the balcony of the property.

How to protect children from digital criminals

Some contents on the Internet are not suitable for the children audience. Below is a listing of different steps you can do to help ensure your child is protected from harmful material or digital criminals who are preying on children.

Talk

It's important for every parent to talk to their children about the dangers of the Internet, including what they should not do while on the Internet. Below is a basic listing of what you may consider discussing with your child.

Monitor use

Parents can plan to monitor the content that a child is exposed to. A parent should constantly check the browser history of the various sites that your children could be visiting. In computing, the web browsing history is the list of web pages a user has visited recently. Browser history yields such information as page title, links, computer specifications and time of visit. It's also possible to retrieve deleted browser history.

Look at the browser address bar or location bar for additional information about what was typed in the browser address bar.

View IM buddies

Instant Messenger program such as MSN will allow you to monitor your children's list of friends, and help analyse communication on all social media platforms.  

Social networking sites

Make sure that children are not posting personal information about themselves on social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and MySpace. Parents or the children who set up social media accounts should ensure that their profiles remain private so that only their friends and family can view the profiles.

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