20 Nov 2023

New online technologies putting Kiwi kids at risk of sexual abuse

6:02 pm on 20 November 2023
Eye on computer screen

Photo: Tumisu/Pixabay

New Zealand's law enforcement agencies say the internet is increasingly putting children at risk of of online sexual exploitation.

New Zealand Customs Service, New Zealand Police and the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) work in partnership to identify child victims and target offenders involved in the online sexual abuse of children, in New Zealand and across the world.

The agencies are marking World Children's Day, by raising the alarm on children's rights and welfare.

Customs said advances in technology had led to more crimes being committed both in the real world and online, with offenders hiding their identities behind encryption and anonymising tools.

But it said the offending was against real children, who suffered serious sexual abuse.

Customs' Acting Investigations Manager Simon Peterson said they were committed to catching offenders both at the country's physical and cyber borders.

"This is not a victimless crime - they aren't just images or videos of children - these are preservations of crime scenes of often horrific sexual abuse. These children are victimised again each time these videos are seen. Sharing the imagery perpetuates the crime by increasing demand and further abuse."

Manager of DIA's Digital Child Exploitation Team Tim Houston said "the Internet has led to an increase in sharing child sexual abuse material and facilitates offenders to connect with one another. Today is a reminder of the importance of protecting and safeguarding the most vulnerable in our society from harm".

Police said it was committed to working closely with both New Zealand and international partners to help keep children safe.

"All children and young people should be safe, and free from sexual exploitation," Detective Inspector Stuart Mills said.

"We remain committed to strengthening relationships with industry to ensure those committing these insidious crimes are held to account."

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