Maine State Police have launched a campaign to help parents better protect their children from sexual exploitation online.

Why is This Program Necessary?

Parenting is so complicated, these days, as parents try to help their children navigate potential threats in person and online. And, perhaps the worst evil they face is the possibility of crossing paths online with predators who will convince them to share inappropriate images of themselves. So the Maine State Police Computer Crimes Unit and Northern New England Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force are providing tips for parents in a program called 'Stop, Block, and Tell.'

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What is Stop, Block, and Tell?

The sooner questionable communication is shut down, the less chance that something bad is going to happen. So Police say its important for kids to stop anyone who's pressuring them to take or share images or videos of a suggestive or explicit nature. These predators are cunning. They could disguise themselves as someone your child's age or even as someone they know. Let them know it's never okay to share these types of images, online or via text messages.

Once an online contact has crossed over into that dangerous territory, it's imperative that your child block them from all platforms. For instance, just blocking them from Meta may not be enough. Also block them from Instagram, Twitter, and anywhere else where they may have access.

If your child is still not comfortable that they've resolved the situation, they should consider taking down their social media platforms, at least for a while, and tell an adult. Actually, the best idea would be for your child to tell you or another trusted adult as soon as it starts so you can help them foil the predator.

Can Anything Be Done Once the Images are 'Out There?'

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, with support from Meta, have developed a portal called Take It Down, which aims to help minors who are concerned that intimate images they created might be shared with others without their consent on public platforms. Take It Down can assign a unique digital fingerprint called a 'hash value' to nude, partially nude, or sexually explicit images or videos of people under the age of 18. Participating online platforms can use hash values to detect posts of these images or videos on their services and remove the content. Now, don't worry, this doesn't require sharing the image with the platforms. They use the hash values, so any questionable images never have to leave the original device.

More information on internet safety from sexual exploitation can be found on the website for Stop Non-Consensual Intimate Image Abuse.

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