Due to families spending more time at home and online, children are at an unprecedented risk of being exploited by sexual predators, and suspects may be more likely to coerce victims through sexploitation, according to the FBI.
In a March 23 statement from the FBI, the investigative agency warned parents that “due to school closings as a result of COVID-19, children will potentially have an increased online presence and/or be in a position that puts them at an inadvertent risk.” Currently, virtual school conference calls across the country are facing harassment from “zoom-bombs” where individuals are entering meetings and exposing teachers and students to pornography.
Here are some helpful tips on how to talk to your child about online predators:
- Talk with kids about what is or isn’t appropriate contact on the internet.
Explain to a child that boundaries are necessary on the internet. Remind them that if they feel like they’re ever in an unsafe situation, reiterate that it is not their fault and you are always there to help them.
- Monitor children’s behavior for common signs of online abuse.
If your child is experiencing an increase in nightmares, withdrawn behavior, angry outbursts, anxiety, depression, not wanting to be left alone with an individual or sexual knowledge, it could be a sign that they’re being harassed by a sexual predator.
- Review all apps on their devices.
Talk to your child regularly about their favorite websites and apps. Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded. Additionally, make sure privacy settings are set to the strictest level possible for online gaming systems and electronics.
- If you see evidence of illicit material sent to your child, contact your law enforcement agency.
If you believe someone is a victim of child sexual exploitation, contact your local law enforcement agency and your local FBI field office. Submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.
- Make sure to provide as much of the following as possible: name and/or username of the subject, email addresses, phone numbers, websites used by the suspect and all documentation of communication.
- Download the OffenderWatch app.
To keep a child safer online, download the OffenderWatch Safe Virtual Neighborhood app to monitor unwanted communication from registered sex offenders. By signing up with Safe Virtual Neighborhood, parents are alerted if a registered sex offender engages their children through Snapchat, texts, phone calls or emails. Parents are also alerted if their child is near a sex offender’s home for an extended period of time.