Preventing child sexual abuse during a pandemic

Keeping kids safe online
Posted at 5:54 AM, Apr 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-29 18:18:15-04

BALTIMORE, Md. — Many people are working from home, including kids doing their schoolwork as we continue to shelter in place.

Families are spending more and more time at home and online, and that could also expose kids to online child predators and potential abuse.

Home should be a safe place for kids but the sexual abuse of children could be happening unbeknownst to parents right under their own roof.

No More Stolen Childhoods executive director Vanessa Milio said “I’m a mom. there's other moms out there, we're literally handing our kid their gaming device, or their tablet and being like, I need to do a work meeting, right? There are dangers and risks from that online interaction, and we just want to make sure that parents are taking a minute to think about that.”

No More Stolen Childhoods is a Baltimore-based non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of child sexual abuse.

“There's also a sexual abuse that occurs where if I as an adult am manipulating a child to giving me images of themselves and them I’m using those images either for my own gratification or to sell to someone else,” Milio said.

With schools closed during the pandemic, classes have moved online, causing kids to spend more time on their electronic devices than ever before.

“I wouldn't take my pre-schooler to the playground and walk away to the car and and go do something else, right? So we're saying you don't' hand your preschooler the laptop and say I’ll be back in an hour,” Milio said.

Milio believes prevention begins with keeping your kids activities online both observable and interruptable.

“If you're child is gaming, you want to know, who they're talking to in that video game. You want to know what apps they've downloaded onto their phone. You want to know who they're engaging with whether it's Tik Tok or Snapchat, or whatever the app of the moment is,” Milio said.

Kids spend so much of their free time sharing their personal videos and photos to social media; however, parents might want to remind them there are some things which should be kept private.

“We don't want you telling that person that you think is your friend in the online world that your in, our address, your date of birth, those types of engagement where an online predator could be pretending to be a peer of your child, to gain access to that information,” Milio said.

There are several other tips for parents to keep their kids safe online.

- Set parental controls on your kids' electronic devices and apps as well as your home wi-fi network to block your kids eyes from inappropriate websites

- Talk to your kids about the dangers of sexting -- what photos are they taking and who are they sharing them with?

- Reserve your kids use of mobile phones and devices only to a common space within the home.

As the pandemic has families spending more and more time at home and online, these are just a few reminders how parents can not only protect their kids digitally but emotionally.

“Because that abuse that can occur, even if they weren't physically violated, can still be damaging and have lifelong impacts,” Milio said.

No More Stolen Childhoods will be hosting a webinar for parents to offer more tips on how to keep your kids safe while they're online.