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Child smartphone users rapidly fall victim to sex crimes in Japan

JIJI

A total of 741 smartphone users under the age of 18 became victims of sex crimes in Japan in 2013 as a result of using social networking sites, a more than fourfold jump from the previous year, the National Police Agency said Tuesday.

The NPA advises parents to regularly explain the dangers of such sites to their children, especially as youngsters tend to use their smartphones more during the summer holidays and have more chances to make contact with people they only know online.

In 2011, only 11 children became victims of such crimes as child prostitution, child pornography and abuse through the use of social networking sites (SNS) on their smartphones. But the number grew sharply to 160 in 2012, according to the NPA.

Of the 741 victims in 2013, 352 used message boards where IDs are exchanged via popular free communications applications such as Line and Kakao Talk, a tenfold increase from the previous year.

Including children who used SNS on conventional mobile phones and personal computers, the number of victims totaled 1,293, up 217 or 20 percent. Of those case, 710 victims were 15 years old or younger.

Asked about reasons for meeting with potential abusers, 22 percent of the victims said they wanted “to play,” the most common response, followed by 16 percent who mentioned the kindness of the person or the advice offered.

“To acquire money or things” was the reason given by 15 percent, while 8 percent said they were “pestered for a date” and 7 percent said they wanted “to find a boyfriend.”

By contrast, 74 percent of the criminal suspects said they had met the victims in order to have sex, while 10 percent of them cited collecting indecent images.

Abusers approached their victims online by falsifying their genders and ages to pretend to be a shoulder to cry on or by promising to buy their victims anything they want, an NPA official said.

Some 95 percent of the victims did not use online filters that prevent browsing of adult sites, while 57 percent of them claimed they had never been warned by their parents.

From August to October, the NPA plans to conduct an undercover investigation of 1,200 stores selling smartphones to check whether they fully explain filters to subscribers when they conclude contracts.