United States Attorney Andrew Birge offered tips to help parents and guardians keep their children safe from on-line predators.
“With schools and entertainment facilities closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, kids are using the Internet more and more. Unfortunately, that means online child sexual predators have increased access to them,” said Birge.
1. Discuss Internet safety with children of all ages that are online. Many children do not realize that people may not be who they claim to be online. Similarly, many do not understand that someone who seems like a friend online could have a deviant motive.
2. Set limits around who your children are allowed to communicate with. You may consider limiting young children to communicating only with people you have personally met. For older children, you may consider limiting them to communicating only with people they have met in person.
3. Set limits around the kinds of devices and applications your children use. Online child sexual predators often use new technologies to avoid detection by law enforcement. If your child is using an application you have not heard of before, consider researching the application online or testing it out using your child’s account.
4. Use technology to protect them. Many devices and programs allow parents to set parameters around which applications children may use and for how long. Similarly, many of these programs allow parents to see what their children are doing while using those applications.
5. Pay attention to warning signs. Children who are sexually exploited are often embarrassed and hesitate to tell parents or other authority figures about their experiences. Pay attention if your child is withdrawing or changing their mood while their Internet activity increases.
6. Report suspected abuse. Reporting can help minimize or stop further victimization. If you believe your child has been sexually exploited online, contact the United States Attorney’s Office, your local F.B.I. office, or report online at www.cybertipline.org.