August 10, 2020
August 10, 2020
The COVID-19 crisis has impacted the way children learn and parents parent. Schools and daycare centers have kept their doors closed in hopes of stopping the spread of the virus, and places of work shifted gears to fully remote to keep their industries up and running. As the tough times extend through the summer months and children have even more free time on their hands, it is more important than ever to continue to closely monitor children’s time online.
These changes, while positive in response to the virus, make for a difficult situation in the home. The inability to schedule playdates, utilize daycare centers, or hire summer nanny’s leaves much of the daily stresses of keeping children entertained on the working-from-home parents. This shift in children’s social life has pulled them from in-person activities and friendships to online ones, with a significant increase of time spent on handheld devices and the internet. While this shift can have positive benefits-still interacting with friends while socially distancing and doing e-learning through their schools- more internet time comes with more risk.
Children are spending more time online due to COVID-19 and parents are finding themselves overburdened by the mounting expectation of keeping up with their jobs while also keeping up with the continuous daily needs and education of their children. In addition, the threat of online predators has increased due to the shelter in place directional. “In just the first four weeks of lockdown, the number of suspected child abuse cases in the U.S. more than doubled to over two million,” according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, (Margolis, 2020). Predators are taking advantage of the increased time online and lack of direct supervision. This combined with the emotional anxiety and inclining sadness in younger children due to the virus is creating, according to Andy Burros, head of child safety online policy for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, “the perfect storm,” (Margolis, 2020).
Conversations about online predators and the dangerous situations that can exist online should be had between parents and their children. Even if parents have already discussed these issues, now is a necessary time to review the rules and risks of online gaming, chat rooms, and social media. Remind children/teens that predators can access online gaming rooms and social media with ease. Agree that children report anything strange or uncomfortable to the parent, stressing that there is nothing to fear or any trouble that can result in their sharing. Ask them to demonstrate that they know how to report and block users and direct messages.
Below are some bullet points on what to cover with a child/teen:
How sexual predators present themselves; often using fake photos and names, lying about their age and location
Red lights that should result in them reporting the situation to a parent and then reporting/blocking the person:
Direct messages that ask for their name, age, address, what school they attend, or photos of them
Direct messaging them inappropriate photos
Asking the child to not share their ‘friendship’ with their parents/keeping them a secret
Remind the child to never share their address, the name of their school, or locational information on social media or gaming sites
Never sharing photos or allowing others to share photos that are of an inappropriate nature
Reporting any activity that makes the child feel uncomfortable, unsure, or upset
Come up with a plan that outlines daily screen time so that the child is never alone with a private screen, and don’t allow children/teens to go to bed with their devices. “Monitor your child’s devices by looking at their search history, reading their text messages, and monitoring what they’re posting,” (Margolis, 2020).
Luckily, parents don’t have to fight against online predators alone. Apps like Bark allow parents to monitor their child’s online activities, while apps like Net Nanny allow parents to block content, apps, and sites entirely on devices (Margolis, 2020).
The Child Rescue Coalition pulled research and gathered a list of frequently used acronyms that are vital for parents to learn and know, (Culture Reframed, 2020). Researchers found that children are developing their own type of language to keep parents out of the loop – and that predators are learning and using them, too.
MIRL – Meet in real life
MOS – Mom over shoulder
NIFOC – Nude in front of computer
NSFW – Not safe for work
P911 – Parent alert
PAW – Parents are watching
PAL – Parents are listening
PIR – Parent in room
POS – Parent over shoulder
PRON – Porn
RUMORF – Are you male or female?
SWAK – Sealed with a kiss
TDTM – Talk dirty to me
WTTP – Want to trade pictures?
8 – Oral sex
99 – Parent gone
142 or 459 – I love you
182 – I hate you
1174 – Nude club
ASL – Age/sex/location
CD9 – Code 9 means parents are around
FYEO – For your eyes only
GNOC – Get naked on camera
GYPO – Get your pants off
HAK – Hugs and kisses
KFY – Kiss for you
KPC – Keeping parents clueless
Culture Reframed (2020, February 18). Learn the Acronyms & Abbreviations That Predators Use. Cultureframed.
Margolis, C. (2020, July 20). Pedophiles Are Sharing Grooming Manuals Online, And It’s Perfectly Legal. EvieMagazine.