INDIANAPOLIS — The FBI is seeing an increase in internet crimes against children across the country, including here in Indiana. They're hoping parents will keep a closer eye on their children to protect them from the dangers of the web.
According to the FBI, these crimes often involve sextortion, where an adult will persuade a child to send sexually explicit videos or pictures and then try to blackmail the child by threatening to share the images.
Indiana State Police said they received nearly 7,600 tips on these types of crimes in 2021, compared to around 3,500 tips in 2018.
"All of a sudden, somebody says, 'Hey, I'd like to talk to you over here on this other app where nobody is monitoring us,'" said FBI Special Agent Andrew Willmann. "So, if parents are able to catch that in real time, that's way easier to stop it than it is, two or three months down the line after the child's been victimized or something else were to happen trying to pick up those pieces."
Willmann said the crime mostly happens to children ages 10-17. He recommends that parents can get ahead of it by monitoring social media apps and restricting internet access for you children.
He also recommends parents be aware of any intense personality changes in your child, or any self-harming behaviors. If your child does become a victim, Willmann said to report it to police right away.
"If that's already happened, just make sure children know, that they didn't break any laws by making that if they were coerced to make it," Willmann said, "so the FBI doesn't see them as perpetrators but as victims of a crime, and they won't get in trouble if they come forward and report it."
Willmann added that if it does happen to you child, continue to talk with them and be aware going forward.
"Don't let it bog you down to where you don't let your kids do anything on their own or go anywhere. But just be cognizant of it, and don't let it ruin your life, and make sure you set appropriate boundaries for your kids," Willmann said.