A record number of minors were victims of crimes such as child pornography and prostitution through social media in the first half of 2017, police data showed Thursday.
A total of 919 people under 18 fell victim in the January to June period, up 30 from a year earlier and the highest number since comparable data became available in 2008. Female high school and junior high school students accounted for nearly 80 percent of all victims, according to the National Police Agency.
More than 30 percent of the total, or 327 victims, used Twitter, while users of online services that enable them to communicate with multiple persons simultaneously increased.
An agency official said there has been a rise in the use of Twitter because it allows users to obtain multiple accounts anonymously.
“The number of child victims is on the rise and the situation is alarming,” NPA chief Masayoshi Sakaguchi told a news conference. “We want to actively take preventive measures through public-private collaborations.”
By age, 16-year-olds made up 25.1 percent of the total, followed by 15-year-olds at 21.9 percent, and 17-year-olds at 21.7 percent.
Twenty-five minors were victims of felonies, including 10 cases of rape and 10 cases of assault.
Of the overall figure, 350 were victims of crimes violating an ordinance on the protection of minors, 289 fell prey to child pornography and 243 were involved in child prostitution. The three crimes accounted for more than 90 percent of the total.
Among 728 people who answered reasons why they met with perpetrators, nearly 40 percent said they were seeking money or sexual relations.
Of the total, 86.1 percent used smartphones to access websites. Among victims asked by the police whether they used a filtering service against harmful websites, more than 90 percent did not use one.
Meanwhile, the number of victims in crimes involving online dating sites dropped by nine from a year before to 13. Such victims drastically decreased around 2008 when a law was revised to tighten regulations.
To protect children from crimes involving online community space and social media, the government will require smartphone stores by next June to confirm the age of users and activate filtering services if they are under 18 based on a revised law on providing a safe and secure environment for internet use by young people.
Community website and social media operators are also studying safety measures. Messaging app provider Line Corp. and DeNA Co. among others have set up a monthly consultative meeting to share their expertise in effectively preventing crimes.
Cybercrime v olunteers have also been active and reported to website operators about 16,000 online posts including those seeking enjo kōsai, or compensated dating,in the July-September period. Operators erased these posts or suspended flagged users’ accounts to prevent crimes.
“Even using general websites could lead to crimes depending on how they are used. We want parents and children to be careful about (their use),” an NPA official said.