Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

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Written by Jack Russell
on June 8, 2021

In 2020, the National Center for Exploited & Missing Children (NCMEC) received a record-breaking 21.7 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation on its CyberTipline. This was up 28% from 2019, when the CyberTipline received 16.9 million reports pertaining to suspected child sexual exploitation.

NCMEC’s Brenna O’Donnell highlighted a 98% increase in CyberTipline reports of online enticement. The most obvious explanation for the increase is the COVID-19 pandemic, as the safety precautions surrounding the pandemic forced both children and adults to spend more time online, whether it was for virtual learning, working, or interacting with friends through social media or online gaming. “This leaves kids and teens more susceptible to the dangers of the internet,” O’Donnell wrote.

Gaggle has also observed an uptick in concerning content during this time frame. Our data revealed a 76% increase in incidents involving nudity and sexual content during the first year of the pandemic. Perhaps even more concerning is that the number jumped by 281% among elementary school students. 

Supporting Victims by Reporting Incidents
Both the public and electronic service providers (ESPs) can report incidents of suspected child sexual exploitation 24 hours a day by calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or by visiting report.cybertip.org. NCMEC lists the following examples of suspected exploitation:

  • Online enticement of children for sexual acts
  • Child sexual molestation
  • Child sexual abuse material
  • Child sex tourism
  • Child sex trafficking
  • Unsolicited obscene materials sent to a child
  • Misleading domain names
  • Misleading words or digital images on the internet

According to NCMEC’s breakdown of reports by ESPs, more than 1,400 U.S.-based ESP companies are registered to report instances of apparent child sexual abuse materials that they become aware of on their systems to the CyberTipline. In 2020, 21.4 million of the 21.7 million total reports were submitted by ESPs. Per NCMEC, “These reports are critical to helping remove children from harmful situations and to stopping further victimization.”

Gaggle submits reports to NCMEC, complying with state and national regulations for dealing with explicit content involving minors. This helps to eliminate the burden of handling indecent material for school districts and also blocks the content from its intended recipient(s).

How Does Gaggle Help?
Vice President of Operations Heather Durkac spoke about Gaggle’s commitment to identifying suspected incidents of exploitation and helping the children involved before it’s too late. “Our Safety Representatives report any incidents of explicit content involving minors directly to NCMEC, but our commitment runs deeper than that,” said Durkac. “We continue to place a big focus on preventing child sex trafficking, studying the trends and patterns so we can continuously evolve our technology, keep our highly trained team informed, and help educate school districts. This is all part of our efforts to help our partners keep their students safe.” 

One example of how Gaggle helps districts protect students took place earlier this year. When a student went missing from a district partner using Gaggle, district leaders sprang into action to help find her. Using Gaggle’s interface, the district and local law enforcement were able to find the information they needed to locate the female student, who had been picked up by a male and taken across state lines. Thanks to this district’s quick action, they were able to successfully intervene and return the student to safety.

“It was easier for our emergency contact at the district to use the Gaggle interface to review the student’s messages than it was to go through their system,” said LaShona Dickerson, an Account Executive at Gaggle. “Human trafficking—and especially child sex trafficking—is a growing and very real concern in our society. At Gaggle, we do everything we can to help these districts and families keep students safe, and we continue to enhance our technology as trends develop over time.”

To learn more about how Gaggle helps districts keep students safe from predators, read our East Irondequoit Central School District case study. You can also check out our The Fight Against Human Trafficking blog post to learn more about the various types of human trafficking, how pervasive it is in the U.S., what some common red flags are, and what Operation Underground Railroad (O.U.R.) is doing to identify, rescue, and rehabilitate victims.

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