By Jill Webster

Over 1.5 billion children across the globe were sent home from school indefinitely in mid-March due to the pandemic. For students, teachers, and parents, schools were converted into virtual environments almost overnight. The change to remote learning has led to serious, potential risks to children. Young people are spending an unprecedented amount of time in front of screens, as technology is being used for education, entertainment, and socializing. Many parents are distracted and overwhelmed with working from home, overseeing distance learning of their child(ren), and managing the stress of the current pandemic. This has created a somewhat perfect storm. Children’s online activity has increased while parents’ supervision has possibly decreased. Online predators have taken advantage of this scenario, and the numbers of child exploitation online have increased drastically during the pandemic.

In this blog series, we provide tips on how parents can protect their children from COVID-19 fraudsters. 

Tips for Keeping Children Safe Online:

>> Parents should have open and frequent conversations with children about online activity and safety.

>> Children should not engage with anyone online they do not talk to offline. This includes friends of friends. If they have not met someone face-to-face, they should not be interacting online with them.

>> Parents should have passwords to all electronic devices and accounts. Online activity should be monitored randomly.

>> Parental control settings on devices should be utilized.

>> Review apps and games before approving.

>> Devices should be kept in an open part of the house.

>> Ensure that children understand that once content/images are posted online or sent electronically via text or private messaging, there is the potential for screen capturing.

>> It is not illegal for children to send sexually explicit content to someone if they were pressured or manipulated into doing so.

>> Emphasize to children that they should always tell a trusted adult if someone tries to coerce them into sexually explicit behavior.

The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children is an excellent resource that provides a compilation of valuable, practical material regarding how the pandemic is affecting children and families. The material is updated daily, so refer to it often for current information. There is information for protecting children at home, online, in humanitarian settings, focused on gender, and other general resources. There are tips for healthy parenting, how to talk to children about COVID-19, educational material, and entertainment ideas. There are resources for children and adults to help cope with stress and mental health information. Credible, reliable resources for health information related to the virus are also provided.

Want more information? Download Hg’s Predators of the COVID-Kind FactSheet for free!

Jill Webster first joined Hetherington Group in 2009, then returned in 2018. She has a keen eye for detail, inherent curiosity, and natural persistence that are beneficial when conducting investigations and researching for writing. She works on special projects and is responsible for in-house proofreading of client reports. She creates content for Hg’s blog regarding predators taking advantage of the most vulnerable populations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Webster develops material and creates webinars for online safety for children.