During COVID-19, the Internet has become an essential tool for educators and families. Digital technology is helping students continue their studies and stay connected with teachers and classmates. At the same time, increased online presence, if unmonitored, may expose children to potentially adverse effects, including predatory individuals and cyberbullying. Parents, guardians, and caregivers are encouraged to take the following measures to help increase children’s online safety:
- DISCUSS INTERNET SAFETY AND DEVELOP AN ONLINE SAFETY PLAN with children for engaging in online activity. Establish clear guidelines, teach children to spot red flags, and encourage children to ask questions and have open communication with you.
- SUPERVISE YOUNG CHILDREN’S USE OF THE INTERNET, including periodically checking their profiles and posts. Keep electronic devices in open, common areas of the home and consider setting time limits for their use.
- REVIEW GAMES, APPS, AND SOCIAL MEDIA SITES before they are downloaded or used by children. Pay particular attention to apps and sites that feature end-to-end encryption, direct messaging, video chats, file uploads, and user anonymity, which are frequently relied upon by online child predators.
- ADJUST PRIVACY SETTINGS AND USE PARENTAL CONTROLS for online games, apps, social medial sites, and electronic devices.
- TEACH CHILDREN ABOUT BODY SAFETY AND BOUNDARIES, including the importance of saying ‘no’ to inappropriate requests both in the physical world and the virtual world.
- BE ALERT TO POTENTIAL SIGNS OF ABUSE, including changes in children’s use of electronic devices, attempts to conceal online activity, withdrawn behavior, angry outbursts, anxiety, and depression.
- ENCOURAGE CHILDREN TO TELL A PARENT, GUARDIAN, OR OTHER TRUSTED ADULT if anyone asks them to engage in inappropriate behavior.
- IMMEDIATELY REPORT SUSPECTED ONLINE ENTICEMENT OR EXPLOITATION OF A CHILD by alerting local law enforcement, contacting the FBI at tips.fbi.gov, or filing a report with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-843-5678 .
- FOR MORE INFORMATION, HELPFUL TOOLS AND ADDITIONAL RESOURCES PLEASE VISIT the Justice Department’s website at https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus/keeping-children-safe-online , the FBI’s Safe Online Surfing at https://sos.fbi.gov/en/, or Homeland Security Investigations at https://www.ice.gov/cyber-crimes/resources .