Cuties and the dangers of cybergrooming of kids

Tonya Mead, PhD, MBA, M.Ed, School Psychologist

So you think Cuties is for entertainment only? For whom, you may ask? Here are the gritty details and dangers presented that few may experience in real life solely for entertainment, artistic expression and profits. If you have a weak stomach, please don’t read this article. A few weeks ago, a forensic evaluator sought my advice about a twelve year old client who was arrested for partaking in incestuous activities with his 11 year old sister.

Background

Here is the information that was conveyed to me by my colleague. The young child was playing X-Box multi-player video games during pandemic school closures. He met an individual online who explained how to pleasure himself. Later, during the course of this online friendship, the individual enticed the 12 year old child to have intercourse with his younger sister. The child was hesitant to do this. Later he told the individual he did the act when in fact he did not. The individual then suggested that he film the act and send it to the individual. The child did so. Later this individual posted the act online of the two minors engaging in the act. The mom of the individual found out and reported it to the local police. The police alerted authorities in the child’s home state, he was immediately handcuffed and arrested. For the rest of his life, he may have a criminal record and be required to register as a Sex Offender. He isn’t the only victim, of course. His sister is also a victim and will need to undergo treatment for a long time.

Considerations

  • Sexual Grooming is a method used by offenders that involves building trust with a child and the adults around a child in an effort to gain access to and time alone with her/him. In extreme cases, offenders may use threats and physical force to sexually assault or abuse a child. More common, though, are subtle approaches designed to build relationships with families, see American Bar Association.
  • Federal Enticement StatuteUnder section § 2422 of the United States Criminal Code (the Code), commonly referred to as the federal enticement statute,12 the government has made it a crime to use interstate commerce to attempt or to knowingly persuade, induce, entice, or coerce any individual under age 18 to engage in prostitution or any sexual activity for which any individual can be charged with a criminal offense. Ibid.

Psychological Research

  • Cybergroomers exploit the need for attention and affection of their victims and the intersection with increased interest in puberty for sexual information.  See Choo, 2009, Dooley, et al, 2009.
  • Cybergroomers use internet platforms that are primarily attended by adolescents, such as chat rooms or social networking sites in order to get in contact with their victims. Ibid.
  • Some adolescents seem to participate in risker behaviors more so online than in the physical realm. See Wolak 2007. His research showed that 25% of young people interacted and shared information with strangers online and 5% reported that they talked with strangers online specifically about sexual topics.
  • Cyber bulliers and Cyber groomers both use new media like the internet to carry out their attacks. The relationships they establish are shaped mainly by the imbalance of power. See Wachs, Wolk and Pan, 2012.

Relevant Case Law

  • Possible parental, X-Box, Snap Chat negligence. “According to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, it’s illegal for commercial websites and apps to allow children under age 13 to open an online account without verifiable parental consent.” See “Should your Child have a Social Media Account.”
  • The application of the Safe Harbor Laws should be considered as this case may involve the sexual exploitation of a child. The definition of commercial sexual exploitation of a child varies. It is considered, “a range of crimes and activities involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of a child for the financial benefit of any person or in exchange for anything of value (including monetary and non-monetary benefits) given or received by any person.” Please see the document titled, “Safe Harbor Laws: Changing the Legal Response to Minors Involved in Commercial Sex, Phase 1. The Legal Review,Office of Justice Programs’ National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

This article is not for condemnation or even morality. While I won’t go into detail about my recommendations to my colleague, I thought this actual case would serve as a launching pad for furthering discussions on the dangers of the Cuties movie, cyber and sex grooming of minors can be so easily carried out, right under our noses, and often right in our own homes.

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Dr. Mead, PhD, MBA, MA http://www.ishareknowledge.com is a consultant specializing in human behavior, school and social psychology. She can be contacted at: tonya at ishareknowledge dot com

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