The Step-By-Step Tactics Used By Criminals For Online Child Exploitation

Thirty-eight-year-old Christopher William Kuehner, of Bremerton, Washington, was convicted for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, according to court records. Kuehner was a prominent member of a website, dedicated to, among other things, child sexual exploitation. He repeatedly persuaded and lured underaged girls to make child sexual abuse material for him and other members of the website.

Kuehner's co-conspirators, Jacob Royce Mullins, 20, of South Webster, Ohio; Kyle William Leishear, 43, of Bayonet Point, Florida; and Matthew Martin, 25, of Lancaster, Winston, pled guilty to their roles in the enterprise. Department of Justice "Four Men Convicted of Engaging in a Child Exploitation Enterprise" (Jan. 25, 2023).

Commentary and Checklist

According to the University of New Hampshire, a new study indicates that 16 percent of young adults in the US have experienced at least one type of sexual abuse online before they turned 18. The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open, the first comprehensive study to look at multiple forms of child sexual abuse online. The survey involved 2,600 young adults between the age of 18 and 28.

And, in 2022 alone, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 29.3 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation.

According to the source article, one of the perpetrators, “repeatedly induced and enticed minor girls to produce child sexual abuse material for both him and the other members of the website.”

How do criminals do this?

The crime starts online. Perpetrators approach targets by using compliments, flattery, or pretending to want a more personal relationship. If a target shows any interest, the perpetrator becomes more forward, asking to communicate with the target via private messaging.

Once the perpetrator builds trust with the target, they begin to seek even more personal or private information from the minor, like secrets or images. Eventually, the perpetrator threatens the minor by saying they will reveal the secret or the images to family, friends, and classmates, if the victim does not send additional, more revealing, images.

Perpetrators may threaten violence against the target or the target’s loved ones to get the minor to continue to make, and send, more sexual images. Many victims, out of fear or shame, will comply rather than report the crime.

What should parents and those who work with children know about protecting children from online abuse?

  • Set boundaries for Internet use
  • Require the child never provide personal identifiers or information of themselves, family, or friends, including name, address, email, phone, school, or employer to anyone online.
  • Keep devices in public areas of the home and monitor online activity.
  • Instruct what is personal information and never share it
  • Require use of privacy settings on social media sites
  • Encourage the child to show you inappropriate email, texts, and social media posts.
  • Remind the child that anything posted on the Internet stays on the Internet forever.
  • Advise a child to report online bullying, threats, or online sexual activity and never respond to it.
  • Eliminate accounts and change phone numbers, if threats are made
  • Instruct the child never to meet someone he or she met online unless a trusted adult is present
  • Approve all images, videos, and blogs before the child posts them; and
  • Look for signs and signals that something is wrong. Keep lines of communication open and encourage the child to share bad online experiences.
Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey: