Protecting Your Child from Online Sexual Predators During COVID-19
Article By Attorney Tahira Khan Merrit
If your family is sheltering at home during COVID-19, it is likely your children are spending a lot more time online. This can unfortunately create a new set of challenges for every parent because online sexual predators are also seeking out victims.
Parents should be extremely cautious of “free” online educational resources. Your child should never have to provide a photo or their full name to use these resources. Check the privacy settings to minimize data collection. Help your child learn to keep personal information private, especially from strangers. Be alert if your child appears to be upset or secretive with online activities.
Work with your child to establish rules on how, when and where devices can be used. Check that your child’s device is running the latest software and antivirus programs, and that privacy settings are on. Keep webcams covered when not in use. For younger children, tools such as parental controls, including safe search, can help keep online experiences positive.
Promote and monitor good behavior online and on video calls. Encourage your children to be kind and respectful to classmates, to be mindful of what clothes they wear and to avoid joining video calls from a bedroom. Familiarize yourself with school policies and helplines to report cyberbullying or inappropriate online content.
Continue to talk with your children about who they communicate with and how. Make sure they understand what appropriate online interactions and that is mean, discriminatory, or inappropriate contact is never acceptable. If your children experiences any of these, encourage them to tell you or a trusted adult immediately.
Finally, it is also important to help your child recognize and avoid misinformation and age-inappropriate content that may increase anxiety about the COVID-19 virus. Many digital resources from credible organizations like The Center for Disease Control,https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/schools-childcare/index.html and UNICEF, https://www.unicefusa.org/mission/covid-19 are available for you and your child to learn about the virus together.