The internet has always provided a way for predators to locate and harm children and because of COVID-19 children are home and spending more time online with an increased time on social media. According to Homeland Security Investigations, since the pandemic began, there has been a 150% increase in reported incidents in Vermont of online child exploitation and attempted exploitation including both financial and sexual exploitation.
In Chittenden County, we have seen an overall increase of this type of sexual harm and exploitation to children between the ages of 10-15 years and it is concerning. It is important to keep in mind that children’s increased access to and reliance on social media, chatting apps, gaming, and other internet-based platforms can lead to increased vulnerability to sexual and financial exploitation.
There are safety measures and tips that parents can use to help protect their children, as well as teach their children to navigate the internet safely. These tips are brought to you by Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Vermont:
Talk to your children about potential dangers and take action to protect their privacy.
TIPS FOR PARENTS
- Discuss internet safety with children of all ages when they engage in online activity.
- Monitor internet use and keep devices in the common room, rather than the bedroom.
- Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded.
- Explain that images posted online stay on the internet permanently, even for apps that claim to delete said images after a certain amount of time.
- Set privacy settings to the strictest level possible for online and gaming profiles.
- Check your children’s profiles: know what they are posting and who they are talking to.
Set expectations about safe internet use and revisit them frequently with your kids.
- Discuss ground rules for safe online behavior.
- Agree on what type of information is ok to share and what should stay private.
- Outline consequences for violating ground rules.
- Review parental controls, privacy, settings, and content frequently.
Looking for signs of potential victimization
- New secrecy: Quickly closing windows or apps.
- Change in behavior or attitude: Visibly nervous when using certain apps.
- Suddenly withdrawn from social media.
If you think your child is a victim….
- Do not delete anything! Place the phone in airport mode. Report it to the authorities.
- Remember and remind others: it’s not your child’s fault.
- Keep talking about how to keep them safe and happy.
To report concerns:
Cyber Tipline 866-347-2423
H.O.P.E Works Hotline 24/7 802-863-1236
|If you suspect that your child has been victimized online or in person, please call law enforcement for assistance and resources.||Make sure your children know they can tell a parent, guardian, law enforcement, or other trusted adults if someone asks them to engage in sexually explicit activity online.|
H.O.P.E Works is a non-profit organization serving Chittenden County dedicated to ending all forms of sexual violence. Part of our mission is in education prevention and outreach and bringing awareness to various situations that can cause harm and hoping to end that harm.
Please feel free to reach out to email@example.com for any non-urgent questions or concerns.
For more information see these additional resources:
Child Exploitation Press Release
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children