Online Child Exploitation and What Parents’ Role Is In Preventing It
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, and experts say the pandemic and isolation makes kids more vulnerable.
“We have really seen an explosion of reports of child sexual exploitation,” said Yiota Souras of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
Souras says for the first half of this year, reports of child porn, trafficking, and other types of exploitation across the country rose by 90 percent, up from 2019. She says the pandemic was one factor that motivated predators.
“Predators openly discussing the fact that stay-at-home was beneficial to them,” said Souras. “More children being at home, online with very disrupted schedules and being more vulnerable to their approaches for sexual enticement.”
NCMEC hopes kids, teachers, parents and school leaders take advantage of resources available online for educational awareness and safety.
What can parents do to protect their children from cyber exploitation?
- Stay educated and engaged in the world of technology and in your child’s use of technology. “Friend” your children on social media, stay involved in their online presence, and allow them to teach you about their technological worlds.
- Talk with your spouse and build an agreement about technology; share it with your children. Make your stance clear and keep it consistent.
- Teach your kids basic online etiquette: be kind, don’t friend or talk to people you don’t know, and don’t share any personal, contact, or location information.
- Explain the importance of cyber security to your children: use anti-virus software, avoid clicking on any emails or links from unknown senders, don’t download files from questionable sources, only connect to trustworthy wifi sources, keep network information private, and use ad blockers.
- Monitor your child’s browsing history.
- Maintain healthy communication between parents and children; for a child, knowing that parents care and love him or her builds essential confidence, trust, and self-esteem.
Parents are ultimately the best source for detecting harm and helping their children overcome cyber attacks. They are responsible for understanding the world of technology and their child’s involvement in it. The best way to protect children is through parental awareness, education, and engagement. The more involved you are with your child’s life, the more equipped you as a parent will be to empower your child.