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Investigating the Trends and Patterns of Online Child Exploitation in Nimba County, Liberia
Problem Statement
Online child exploitation has been a major problem in the recent past, triggered by extensive use and over-reliance on the internet. The research was limited to a specific county, Nimba in Liberia. The problem being investigated is the extent to which children are exploited online, the various trends as well as patterns of online child exploitation.
The research was guided by a key research question:
What are the main techniques used in exploiting children online?
Besides, the research used a sub-question:
What is the age limit of children exploited online?
The research questions were effective as they provided the pathway for the research, and also effective in finding various solutions that would be adopted in mitigating the problem.
Significance
The potential significance of the research is realized by helping children understand the various ways they can be exploited online. The government as well as other agencies have been on the frontline in the investigation of the issue in an attempt to find a long-lasting solution. Therefore, conducting this research is a stepping stone in navigating through the problem hence easing the burden of children exploited online as well as the government.
Conceptual /Theoretical Framework
The conceptual/theoretical framework for this study utilizes group theory. Group theory is defined as the influence of a particular group on the creation and formulation of policies that guide a group of individuals in undertaking a certain task  (Weible & Sabatier, 2017). A group is further defined as a conglomeration of individuals who have common interests and characteristics. In this case, the group is children within the same age bracket, who have a common interest in education.
Nature of the Study
The nature of this study will be qualitative. Qualitative research is consistent with investigating a thorough and extensive problem phenomenon that needs a clear understanding and an in-depth problem root analysis. The nature of the study will facilitate a clear understanding of the various trends and patterns used in online child exploitation in Nimba County, Liberia, which is the focus of this dissertation. By investigating the root cause analysis of the problem through conducting interviews, the research will provide an insight into the problem through specific cases of exploitation as well as the consequences.
Possible Types and Sources of Information or Data
The research utilizes in-depth interview methods, as the main method of inquiry and data collection. The use of in-depth interview methods provides comprehensive information on the various experiences of children who are exploited online. Additionally, the in-depth interview methods provide the researcher with an opportunity to carefully analyze the perceptions and impacts of the subject matter  (Coffman, Putman, Adkisson, Kriner, & Monaghan, 2016). The use of the in-depth interview methods relies on the participants’ experiences, therefore providing the research with another viewpoint on the various tactics used by exploiters. Consequently, this paints a clear picture and an understanding of the research topic based on the experiences, consequences as well as potential remedies to the problem. Nevertheless, the in-depth interview methods pose a challenge whereby the researcher ought to utilize more time that includes working overtime, to collect and obtain relevant information on the research topic.
Findings
Findings from the data collection method suggest that a large number of children are exploited through the various educational sites provided on the internet. Based on the personal experiences of the participants, most children visit sites in quest of education and entertainment. Unfortunately, most sites are unregulated and therefore easily accessible by exploiters who in turn collect data and information, without the authorization of the users.  Moreover, data analyzed from personal experiences of the participants, suggest that the online exploiters intercept the given sites by providing lucrative deals to the users who are in turn curious to find out more about the various sites accessed. Nevertheless, findings analyzed from the participants suggest that in the aftermath, users are unable to login to various sites and a lot of their online information collected and utilized in other platforms.
Data collected revealed that 93% of all exploitation cases involved at least one of the following; e-mail, cellphones, internet sites, and text messages. The majority of the victims claimed that their images of a sexual nature were recorded and exploiters threatened to distribute the images if they did not abide by the threats. Moreover, findings indicated that the majority of the victims were female, totaling up to two-thirds of the victims.
Cases of online exploitation are still on the rise despite the various actions taken by the government to mitigate the issue. Such strategies include the national Action Plan for the Implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 (2009) and The Agenda for Transformation (2012), that exclusively entail provisions aimed at protecting children from online exploiters (Zwier, 2017). However, according to the victims, most cases go unreported due to a number of factors such as feelings of shame and embarrassment, the anxiety of being blamed for the cases, stigmatization and rejection as well as mistrust in the police and administration systems.
Limitations
There are various challenges that are likely to be encountered throughout the research. First is the need to work overtime to ensure the collection of accurate and timely information. The challenge is likely to be experienced, attributed to the fact interview with the victims, who are children, require supervision and guidance from their parents, who are on busy work schedules. Another challenge likely to be experienced while conducting the research is biasness, attributed to the fact that victims provide information based on their personal experiences that might be exaggerated information on the research study topic, hence making it impossible to achieve honest and reliable information.
References
Coffman, K.,   Putman, P., Adkisson, A., Kriner, B., & Monaghan, C. (2016). Waiting for the expert to arrive: Using a community of practice to develop the scholarly identity of doctoral students. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 1, 30-37.
Weible, M. C., & Sabatier, A. P. (2017). Theories of the policy process. Hachette UK.
Zwier, J. P. (2017). Human Rights for Women in Liberia (and West Africa): Integrating Formal and Informal Rule of Law Reforms through the Carter Centers Community Justice Advisor Project. Law and Development Review, 10(2), 187-235.
 
 
 
 


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