Frequently Asked Questions

What is child sexual exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation includes the following:

  • Possession, Manufacture, and Distribution of Child Pornography
  • Enticement of Children for Sexual Acts
  • Child Prostitution
  • Child Sex Tourism
  • Child Sexual Molestation

The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline takes reports about child sexual exploitation as well as other crimes against children. Learn more about these reporting categories and/or report a suspected case of child sexual exploitation.

What is online child sexual exploitation?

Online child sexual exploitation is the sexual exploitation of a child that has an Internet component.

What is child pornography?

Under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256), child pornography1 is defined as any visual depiction, including any photograph, film, video, picture, or computer or computer-generated image or picture, whether made or produced by electronic, mechanical, or other means, of sexually explicit conduct, where

  • the production of the visual depiction involves the use of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • the visual depiction is a digital image, computer image, or computer-generated image that is, or is indistinguishable from, that of a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct; or
  • the visual depiction has been created, adapted, or modified to appear that an identifiable minor is engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Federal law (18 U.S.C. §1466A) also criminalizes knowingly producing, distributing, receiving, or possessing with intent to distribute, a visual depiction of any kind, including a drawing, cartoon, sculpture or painting, that

  • depicts a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct and is obscene, or
  • depicts an image that is, or appears to be, of a minor engaging in graphic bestiality, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or sexual intercourse, including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex and such depiction lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

Sexually explicit conduct is defined under federal law (18 U.S.C. §2256) as actual or simulated sexual intercourse (including genital-genital, oral-genital, anal-genital, or oral-anal, whether between persons of the same or opposite sex), bestiality, masturbation, sadistic or masochistic abuse, or lascivious exhibition of the genitals or pubic area of any person.

If you are uncertain about whether the images or videos you have come across meet the standards of the law, please do not hesitate to report them to The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children will review the site, determine whether it is apparent child pornography, and then forward it to the appropriate law-enforcement agency.

1As stated by Janis Wolak, Kimberly Mitchell, and David Finkelhor in Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors: The Response of Law Enforcement (Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, November 2003, page vii), “The term ‘child pornography,’ because it implies simply conventional pornography with child subjects, is an inappropriate term to describe the true nature and extent of sexually exploitive images of child victims. Use of this term should not be taken to imply that children ‘consented’ to the sexual acts depicted in these photographs; however, it is the term most readily recognized by the public, at this point in time, to describe this form of child sexual exploitation. It is used in this [document] to refer to illegal pictorial material involving children under the standards developed by statute, case law, and law-enforcement-agency protocols. It is hoped that a more accurate term will be recognized, understood, and accepted for use in the near future.”

How big of a problem is child sexual exploitation?

The sexual victimization of children is overwhelming in magnitude yet largely unrecognized and underreported. Research indicates that 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boyswill be sexually victimized before adulthood.

[D. Finkelhor. “Current Information on the Scope and Nature of Child Sexual Abuse.” The Future of Children: Sexual Abuse of Children, 1994, volume 4, page 37.]

To learn more about child sexual exploitation and prevention, read Preventing the Sexual Exploitation of Children.

How many children are sexually solicited and/or approached online?

According to the latest online victimization research,

  • Approximately one in seven youth online (10 to 17 years-old) received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet.
  • Four percent (4%) received an aggressive sexual solicitation — a solicitor who asked to meet them somewhere; called them on the telephone; or sent them offline mail, money, or gifts.
  • Thirty-four percent (34%) had an unwanted exposure to sexual material — pictures of naked people or people having sex.
  • Children revealed 27% of these episodes of unwanted exposure to sexual material to a parent or guardian.  Children reported 42% of the distressing encounters – episodes that made them feel very or extremely upset or afraid – to a parent or guardian.

[David Finkelhor, Kimberly J. Mitchell, and Janis Wolak. Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later. Alexandria, Virginia: National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, 2006, pages 7-8, 33.]

For more information, download the report, Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later

For prevention resources for kids, parents and teens, visit the NetSmartz Workshop.

What are some examples of online sexual solicitations reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children?

The quotes below were taken from children in the 2006 report Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later.

  • Boy, 11, who was playing an online game with a 20-year-old-man: “He asked me something personal, something about a man’s privates.”
  • Girl,12: “I went into the chatroom, and they asked me if I wanted to have cybersex. I was asking them what kind of music they liked and stuff.”
  • Girl, 14: “I was chatting on the Internet and this guy just popped up in an instant message and started talking really dirty to me and saying things that I had never heard of before. He told me he was 20 years old and then he said, ‘LOL’ (laugh out loud).

For more information, download the report, Online Victimization of Youth: Five Years Later.

What should I do if my child is the victim of sexual exploitation?

If your child indicates that he or she may have been the victim of sexual exploitation or abuse:

  • Seek appropriate medical attention to be sure your child has not been physically injured.
  • Report the exploitation to your local law-enforcement agency.
  • Inform child-protection, youth-services, child-abuse, or other appropriate social- service organizations about the exploitation.
  • Seek counseling or therapy for your child. Your state Attorney General may have funds for crime victims’ counseling. Contact your Attorney General

What is the CyberTipline®?

The Congressionally-mandated CyberTipline is a means for reporting crimes against children including:

  • possession, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography
  • online enticement of children for sexual acts
  • Child prostitution
  • Sex Tourism Involving Children
  • Extrafamilial Child Sexual Molestation
  • Unsolicited Obscene Material Sent to a Child
  • Misleading Domain Names
  • Misleading Words or Digital Images on the Internet

Reports may be made 24-hours a day, 7 days a week online at or by calling 1-800-843-5678.

How do I help keep my children safer online?

Check out the safety tips for families, kids, and teens available at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s NetSmartz Workshop.

Are you an adult who has questions about how to keep kids safer on the Internet?

NetSmartz411 is here to help!

Also check out the publication Keeping Kids Safer on the Internet.

I came across images that I think might be child pornography, what should I do?

Report it to CyberTipline (

What should I do if I accidentally view, receive, or download child pornography?

Images of child pornography are illegal and may be needed for evidence; it is imperative that you take the following steps:

  • Do not mail these images to law enforcement.
  • Call or visit the proper law-enforcement authority and ask how they would like to handle this evidence.
  • After speaking with the proper law-enforcement authority, follow their instructions.

I viewed a text advertisement for child pornography but I did not see images. Should I report it?

A text advertisement describing child pornography is illegal. Follow the same steps you would if you found child pornography on the Internet. Report it to CyberTipline and provide us with the URL, the offender’s e-mail address if possible, and the time and date that you found the images. The more information you can provide, the more helpful the information is to law-enforcement authorities.

My 13-year-old son received an e-mail with an image of adult pornography, is this illegal?

An incident such as this may be illegal. Please make a CyberTipline report and save the e-mail in which the image was attached. Please include the full expanded “Header” information in your CyberTipline report.

Where do I report seeing adult pornography sites?

Report adult obscenity that does not include children to

If, however, you suspect that there are illegal images of children on the site, report it to CyberTipline.

Source: National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:


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