Internet child sex exploitation on the rise, linked to pandemic

Albany County

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Screen time for kids has spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic as school districts have gone remote. Officials say the added screen time has also boosted cyber crimes against children.

“We’re running a revolving case load of 100 cases at any given time,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent Don Zumpano.

Zumpano said the agency has seen an increase in online child production and child enticement investigations. “The more kids are online, the more access individuals are going to have to them,” he said.

During a normal school year, the FBI has the opportunity to go to schools and talk to parents and teachers about what to look out for. This year, school districts like Chatham Central School District, are using their school resource officers to fill the void.

“It can happen to anybody. Subjects are not necessarily in your area, or these individuals are not necessarily in your area, and they’re willing to travel,” Zumpano said.

In 2019, the New York State Police conducted about 3500 cases of cyber child exploitation. From January to September of this year, that number has been eclipsed with nearly 4500 cases.

Zumpano said the FBI’s message has been consistent. They caution parents to keep an eye on their child’s online activity. They ask for parents to contact police right away if an issue comes up.

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