Police Warn Children Of 'Bunny Hunting'

| by Brendan Kelly
Sgt. James SpurlockSgt. James Spurlock

Police are warning parents about the dangerous ways child predators are accessing children online.

Sgt. James Spurlock of Loudon County, Virginia, speaks to children in his area about the dangers of talking to strangers online. He says that child abusers are becoming an increasingly strong threat to children online.

Predators have taken to spending most of their time online and reaching out to young teens and children they don't know in order to sexually exploit them.

"They call it bunny hunting," Spurlock said to a room full of 11- and 12-year-olds.

There's more people on the Internet in the world than there's ever been and as technology becomes easier and cheaper, it ends up in the hands of people that couldn't have afforded it 10 or 15 years ago. It puts more young people into technology. It puts more access to predators who 20 years ago had no access to them and can now simply sit on their computers at home or in an Internet cafe or Starbucks and reach out and talk to hundreds of kids with no real effort.

Child predators spend most of their time in areas of the Internet where they know children will be: online games, message boards, and of course, social media.

Spurlock began his class with a question for the students. "If someone threatened you online or sent you something inappropriate, how many of you would immediately go tell your parents?" he asked. 

According to The Washing Post, several dozen students in the crowd of more than 100 raised their hands right away, with others reluctantly following. However, many remained still, with their arms by their sides.

"Okay, not everyone's hand is up," Spurlock said. "So let's talk about that."

Many students who did not raise their hands said that they fear their parents would take away their phones or other devices. They would rather live with the risks of sexual exploitation than have their parents take away their phones.

Spurlock explains to the students how important it is to tell their parents if something inappropriate or uncomfortable happens to them online. He also teaches similar classes to parents, in which he warns them not to get angry or punish their children for telling the truth.

Spurlock warned that "one in 5 of you will be a victim before you turn 18."

Spurlock hopes that his campaign will increase awareness of the vulnerability of young people on the internet. 

Sources: The Washington PostAWM / Photo credit: Loudoun Crime Commission via AWM

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