ORLANDO, Fla. — The “Paving the Way” Foundation is a non-profit organization in Central Florida that works to educate kids about the dangers facing them in today’s world.
President and CEO Jan Edwards says there are three key numbers to keep in mind when talking about child exploitation: 10, 17, and 29.
Edwards says 10 is the average age at which children are becoming exposed to potential exploitation. 17 is the average number of minutes it takes predators to groom a child into sending them an explicit photo. And there were more than 29 million reports of child sex abuse material received by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2021.
Edwards says the fight to protect kids from being exploited online is more than just a job for her. She says she feels it because she goes into classrooms and sees it firsthand.
“I was at a 5th grade class a couple weeks ago and I asked them how many of you have received a direct message or a picture you didn’t ask for from someone you don’t know,” Edwards recalled. “Every hand went up.”
Edwards says she’ll soon be in another classroom talking to more kids between the ages of 10 and 13 about the warning signs.
“There are criminal organizations and this is all they do,” Edwards explained. “They go after young people for money.”
Edwards says exploitation often starts with a direct message on social media.
“All it takes is an upset 14-year-old,” Edwards said. “They’re online sharing about it. Predators know that and they go after…slide into the DMs.”
From there, Edwards says, the predators build a connection. Before long, they’ll send a picture and then request one in return. Then it escalates, and the exploitation starts.
“If you don’t send me another picture, you need to pay me $5,000,” Edwards explained.
Statistics show it takes just 17 minutes on average for predators to get a child to send them an explicit photograph.
The 29 million reports of child sex abuse logged by the NCMEC in 2021 were an increase from the 21 million reported the previous year.
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