A Researcher from British Columbia is Investigating How Youngsters are Targeted Online

Dr. Jan Kietzmann, a professor and researcher based in Victoria, B.C., prioritizes being a father. However, due to his expertise in technology, socialization, and online behaviors, he frequently receives inquiries from parents and caregivers seeking advice on keeping their children safe in the online world.

Kietzmann notes that while many people are genuinely concerned about online safety, they often exhibit what he calls “optimism bias.” This bias leads them to believe that negative experiences only happen to others, not to them. However, Kietzmann emphasizes that the risks exist for all families and need to be addressed accordingly.

Driven by his desire to explore the dangers children face online, including his own children, Kietzmann, along with his co-author Dionysios Demetis, conducted research on online child sexual exploitation and the role of technology and social actors in facilitating such exploitation. Their paper, titled “Online Child Sexual Exploitation: A New MIS Challenge,” was recognized as the paper of the year on this topic at the International Conference on Information Systems in Copenhagen.

Their research involved engaging with former directors of intelligence services, professionals working in cybercrime units, school districts, and police officers across the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada. They sought to understand the different stages perpetrators go through and the role of technology, particularly imagery, in online exploitation.

Kietzmann emphasizes that imagery posted online lies at the heart of many problems. Children, perpetrators, and law enforcement form a triangular relationship, each utilizing different technologies for their own purposes. Kietzmann stresses that educating children about the consequences of sharing personal information, photos, and videos online is crucial. However, he also acknowledges that children’s decision-making abilities are still developing due to their immature prefrontal cortex, making them more vulnerable to online risks.

Reports from organizations working to protect children online, including, indicate a significant increase in child exploitation cases in Canada. Kietzmann cautions that child targeting online can affect any family, regardless of social status, location, wealth, or education. Moreover, he raises concerns about parents posting photos and videos of their children without considering who might have access to that content, as it can lead to unintended consequences and compromise their privacy.

To address these issues, Kietzmann suggests that parents need to familiarize themselves with the technologies their children use, understand the associated risks, and ensure open discussions about online safety are part of regular family conversations. By recognizing the risks and integrating online life into everyday discussions, parents can better protect their children in the digital age.

The research conducted by Kietzmann and Demetis reveals that perpetrators often employ five stages when targeting children online, including building trust, sharing explicit images, manipulation, and engaging in underground networks. These findings shed light on the psychological pressures children face and the challenges they may encounter when seeking help.

In conclusion, Dr. Jan Kietzmann’s research highlights the urgency of addressing online child sexual exploitation. By raising awareness, promoting parental involvement, and fostering open dialogues, we can work towards creating a safer online environment for children.

If you or anyone you know has been the victim of sexual and/or physical abuse and is searching for legal rights and remedies, Slater Vecchio LLP is here to help. Please contact us for a free, private, confidential meeting.

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James Richards
As a member of our class action practice group, I act for survivors harmed by institutional abuses in both class action and individual civil sexual assault claims. I believe that every harmed person deserves to be heard and advocated for.