During the global pandemic, child predators have taken to trawling homework sites for potential victims - and with more kids online for longer than ever before, they’re finding them. Specialised code is helping them to escape detection.
Social media acronyms have been around as long as social media. (Remember when your mother - or maybe even you - thought LOL was short for “love you lots”?) And new ones are being invented all the time. Some have even entered into everyday usage: BFF (Best Friends Forever) or FOMO (Fear of Missing Out, in case you really have missed out!).
For most of us, this shorthand is just a fun, easy way to communicate on our devices. But for online predators, specialised acronyms and number symbols are an indispensable means to a sinister end: communicating with potential child targets while evading detection by parents and law enforcement.
Or, to use a favourite acronym: KPC (Keeping Parents Clueless).
A child alone online with no parental supervision for a large portion of the day is exactly what a predator seeks ...
The Child Rescue Coalition, a US-based group working to end the sexual exploitation of children, has identified 30 of these code phrases, and they're urging parents to be aware of them when checking their children’s texts and posts.
8: Oral Sex
99: Parent Gone
142: I love you
182: I hate you
1174: Nude Club
CD9: Code 9 - parents are around
FYEO: For your eyes only
GNOC: Get Naked on camera
GYPO: Get your pants off
HAK: Hugs and kisses
IWSN: I want sex now
KFY: Kiss for you
KPC: Keeping parents clueless
MIRL: Meet in real life
MOS: Mom over shoulder
NIFOC: Nude in front of computer
NSFW: Not safe for work
P911: Parent alert
PAW: Parents are watching
PAL: Parents are listening
PIR: Parent in room
POS: Parent over shoulder
RUMORF: Are you Male or female?
SWAK: Sealed with a kiss
TDTM: Talk dirty to me
WTTO: Want to trade pictures?
Parents can also protect their children by explaining that sharing even perfectly innocent personal info online can make them vulnerable.
Child predators have increasingly migrated to homework sites.
"They'll go on these chat sites with other teens and they'll assume they are other teens and they'll say, 'Man I hate it, my mom and dad leave for work' and 'I'm here alone eight hours,'” explains cybersecurity expert Chris Hadnagy.
A child alone online with no parental supervision for a large portion of the day is exactly what a predator seeks to begin the grooming process.
Experts say that during the pandemic, child predators have migrated to homework sites, in addition to online gaming sites that feature interactive chat.
The next step in the grooming process is to move the conversation onto another platform - Kik or Instagram or WhatsApp. “We're seeing that a lot," Hadnagy says.
There’s a big difference between technical proficiency and “digital literacy," say experts.
During the global pandemic, child predators have taken to trawling homework sites for potential victims - and with more kids online for ...