August 10, 2020

Keep your Children Safe from Online Predators During COVID-19

Kate Reilly

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.

The Risk of Your Child Encountering an Online Predator is Increasing 

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).

Steps to Take to Keep Children Safe

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).

Acronyms to Know and Be Aware of on Social Media and Chats/Texts

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.

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