kids

What predators look for when you post photos of your kids.

Erin Cash has 12 years experience on the Queensland Police force, including as a detective in paedophile and child abuse task forces. She also runs Sweat Depot in Brisbane.

Warning: This post may be triggering to someone who experienced sexual abuse.

Your child or teen could be a poster child for a paedophile ring – and you may never know.

Australia made world news in 2016 with a website trading explicit photos of local school girls. The site even had pages dedicated to local Brisbane and Gold Coast high schools and fan pages – offering money to men who could find more explicit photos of their favourites.

Attempts to close down the site have been thwarted in a brazen disregard of the law. And these girls, whose images have been used without consent, could be to this day, oblivious.

Listen: Roxy Jacenko discusses her daughter Pixie’s images being tampered with on No Filter.

Police cannot always locate you if photos of your children have been found to be used in connection with paedophile rings. Due to the ability to mask IP addresses and identities with overseas servers and false identities it is not always possible to link an identity to these photos. There are even sites dedicated to teaching online predators how to cover their tracks.

A photo of your child could be part of a paedophilia ring that has been uncovered by police, and you won’t even know about it.

The Task Force I worked for busts paedophile rings – and makes arrests of paedophiles in our neighbourhood. This article is an insight into what they do, and how close to your home they come to arrest offenders.

Your innocent photo could be transformed by predators. (Image via iStock.)

A paedophile or predator will not play fair, nor think like the average person. They, therefore, look at images and their erotic 'potential' differently to how the average population does.

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Here are some things that paedophiles may find attractive when looking at photos on social media:

The obvious stuff.

Like children in bathers, underwear, having a bath, or in a state of undress. Even well-placed emoticons covering your child's genitals can be photoshopped off and genitals photoshopped back on to increase the 'value' of the photo.

You can take me to South Bank beach at Brisbane on any given day and I will be able to point out lone males taking photos of children.... your children.

Predators could be watching and taking photos without your knowledge. (Image via iStock.)

And yes - police do patrol this and regularly confiscate cameras and phones. I have seen it happen meters away from parents and they are completely and utterly oblivious. The police do not have to approach the parents, because it is not an element of the offence to have a complainant.

Importantly, there is rarely time in these situations to locate and talk to the parents about what has just happened - police are too busy dealing with the offender.

The less obvious stuff that predators find irresistible.

Like photos that they can alter to make your child or teen look they are part of a sexual act. These photos can be altered to have a male person in the photo in a state of arousal. Or they can simply overlay a lewd comment so that the photo becomes a paedophile photo 'meme'.

Children of social media celebrities. The more photos posted, and the more coverage the images gain, the more likely they are to come to the attention to paedophile groups and be subjected to their monstrous conversations and attentions. Similar to a teenage crush of a pop star, these photos become a platform for imaginings, fantasies and lewd behaviours.

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The internet has now allowed predators to openly discuss their fetishes, and because they have the support of their monstrous tribe, they now have a place to 'normalise' and 'strategise' dysfunctional thoughts and fantasies.

Things to consider when posting photos of your children.

  • Is there enough room to 'superimpose' another figure into the image?
  • Are they in a state of undress (even with emoticons placed modestly - these can be removed and body parts can be photo shopped in).
  • Do you have a public social media page? Paedophiles can develop 'child crushes' and the child does not have to be posed or in a state of undress for the photo to become a commodity.

I used to pray that when I saw a photo of a baby in a nappy and a sexually aroused man in the image that the image was 'superimposed'. I didn't always receive this comfort from the government classifier or the photographic specialists.

Reconsidered what you are posting. (Image via iStock.)

This is is the horrific reality of child sex crimes and trafficking in the 21st century. There is one photo in particular that I remember which causes me pain daily - a six-month-old in just a nappy with the most beautiful angelic smile laying on a bed - and a naked man entering the babies bedroom. This child looked like my babies - your babies. And the horror that I could not reach through that screen and save that child scratches at my brain.

Things to be considered with your teens social media images.

  • Duck faces and posed photos are used as baseline trading images on predator sites.
  • Swimwear and underwear shots become more valuable.
  • If their account is public then the predator 'ring' can approach friends (or enemies) of the teen and pay money for more explicit photos.

It has taken over a decade for me to write this post because I know that I will have re-visted images and situations from my career that haunt me. There was a time when I would physical hit my head and moan to stop the memories - but I hope that I have now developed better coping strategies. I now have a practice of offering it 'up', or surrender.

I take the time to do a short meditation where I hand the image and the horror over. This then allows me to focus on the present. If it re-surfaces I repeat... repeat, repeat, repeat - just like my rules of self-defence. Because to submit is not an option for me - or my children.

This post originally appeared on the Sweat Depot blog, you can read the original post here.

If you have been triggered by this post or are experiencing sexual abuse please call Child Wise on 1800 991 099.