The Undeletable conference aims to give kids and parents tools to stay safe online.
AUBURN, Maine — According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, online exploitation of minors has skyrocketed since the pandemic.
The watchdog organization received nearly 30 million reports to its CyberTipline last year, up 35 percent over 2020.
Protecting Maine kids from this growing threat is the focus of a two-day conference sponsored by the Maine nonprofit Stop Trafficking US, held at Saint Dominic Academy in Auburn. The student body is learning about the latest disturbing trend regarding sexual exploitation online.
Feigh travels the country working with students, parents, youth workers, faith leaders, and law enforcement officials. She says more students are being blackmailed known as “sextortion” after sharing naked pictures of themselves with people they don’t know.
“The number one group that is being sextorted in the cases that we see nationally is young male athletes,” Feigh explained.
The “Undeletable How Online Activity Impacts Your Safety & Life On and Offline” conference is giving sixth- through 12th graders strategies on how to protect themselves from online predators. Feigh says need to ask themselves important questions, including this one:
“How does this person make me feel, and what is this person asking me to do?” Feigh said.
She also advises kids to have a safety plan, which includes letting a parent or responsible adult know they are being bullied or under pressure to send sexual pictures. Studies also show half of the kids at risk don’t speak up.
“They are worried about being embarrassed or ashamed, so we talk to kids before there is a problem and say you have the right to be safe online,” Feigh added.
These students say they learned new tools to keep them safe.
“Once you post something or say something, you really can’t take it back,” sophomore Anna Theriault explained. “Just be careful when you post something on social media.”
The second day of the conference takes place 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Saturday and is open to the public. It will feature presentations from local, and national law enforcement officials who specialize in cybercrime attacks on kids.
“We will cover the gamut, like what apps offenders use more than others, how gaming happens, and how they are groomed online,” Catherine Ann Wilson, the Founder of Stop Trafficking US, explained.