New data suggests that there has been an increase in sexual acts performed by young children on camera since the pandemic lockdowns started.
According to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), this situation was exploited by predators.
Early in 2020, when the pandemic started, social media platforms experienced a massive rise in popularity.
Compared to the 5,000 websites before the pandemic, the IWF recorded more than 63,000 websites sharing the images last year.
“During the pandemic, the internet was a lifeline, but we are only now unpacking the full effects,” said IWF chief executive Susie Hargreaves.
“What is clear to us is that younger children are being pulled into abusive situations by rapacious predators, often while they are in their own bedrooms.”
In total, the IWF tracks, investigate, and attempts to remove hundreds of thousands of incidents of child sexual abuse on the internet worldwide.
Since reporting levels have remained relatively similar in recent years, the charity believes the rise in self-generated material is due to increased activity.
Two-thirds of the footage examined by analysts now consists of self-generated child abuse videos and photos.
This is in reference to pictures of children forced by a predator online to sexually assault themselves.
According to researchers, many videos are recorded or live-streamed from bathrooms or bedrooms with background noises from a busy home.
To share and sell them, pedophiles frequently perform them live on the internet while secretly recording them.
The UK-based IWF claims that it is often difficult to determine the children’s whereabouts from the footage. If a school uniform or other identifiers are seen, it does, however, report cases to the police.
More than 8,000 images, which the charity estimates to be of children aged seven to ten, contained what is known as Category A material.
A serious case would involve penetrating sexual activity, images involving sexual activity with an animal, or sadistic images.
In one video seen by IWF analysts, a nine-year-old girl is given instructions by adults via an online platform to engage in sex acts in her bedroom while surrounded by cuddly toys.
In the course of performing “super dirty” dares over a webcam, she is interrupted by a presumed family member, who is unaware of what is happening, asking her to run a bath for her (presumed) little brother.
The long-delayed Online Safety Bill is one of the measures the IWF urges the UK government to implement to protect children better.
There is currently an amendment to the bill that could make tech platform bosses criminally liable for failures to prevent, identify and remove content that may promote child sexual exploitation and abuse.
However, the IWF claims that most of the content it processes does not originate in the UK but comes from worldwide.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States reported an increase in child sexual abuse material in 2021 but did not have numbers for 2022. After receiving 21.7 million reports in 2020, the charity’s CyberTipline now has 29.4 million.