There won’t be any kids going to school for months. Pandemic restrictions mean much more time at home and, for some children, more time online.
On Thursday, police warned parents that means the “potential for increased risks” posed by people who exploit children online.
In a news release, RCMP in the Northwest Territories said that danger “comes in many forms.”
Things for parents to be aware of include children being coerced or deceived into producing explicit images or video, and adults arranging to meet and abuse young people
“Often in cases involving adults and youth, they are manipulated into believing the person is their boyfriend or girlfriend,” police said.
To protect your kids, you don’t have to figure out that awkward conversation about online safety from scratch.
RCMP say you can teach them about their safety online using resources like Kids in the Know, a safety education program from the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.
You should also keep an eye on the games and apps your kids are using, ideally before they download them. Make sure privacy settings for online games and apps are at their highest level.
If you can, keep electronic devices in a part of the home that everyone shares instead of behind a closed door in a child’s bedroom, police said.
“Speak to your children and explain that anyone who asks for nude pictures or asks them to engage in sexually explicit activity needs to be reported to a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult and law enforcement,” RCMP added.
“Make it a rule with your children that they can’t arrange to meet with someone they met online without your knowledge and supervision.
“Be involved and pay attention to interactions between adults and children. Supervise your child, know their whereabouts and with whom they are building relationships, offline and online.”
More places to get help
Protect Kids Online – helps parents stay on top of how kids are using the internet
Canadian Centre for Child Protection – national children’s safety charity
CyberTip – national tip line to report online child exploitation
Also watch out for any changes in your child’s behaviour. It could be a sign they are in distress, and they might not be able to find the words to tell you.
“Research shows offenders are less likely to target children who present a risk of telling,” RCMP concluded.
“Predators rely on secrecy to groom and offend, which is why it’s important to report suspicious activity. Sexual attention in any form toward a child is never OK.”