Protecting Children From Online Sexual Exploitation | New
EASTON – For All Seasons Rape Crisis Center is continually researching ways to raise awareness about sexual assault. According to the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, harassment, assault and sexual abuse can happen anywhere, including in online spaces. During Sexual Assault Awareness Month in April, CNSCR is raising awareness about safer ways to be online today. Some of the organization’s advice relates to how we connect online, how we practice digital consent, and how to intervene when we see harmful content or behavior online to ensure that online spaces – whatever they are. act as workspaces, classrooms, social media platforms or the like – be respectful and safe.
During the pandemic, there has been an increased risk of keeping children safe online and preventing trauma online when they attend a virtual school and communicate with their friends digitally through online apps rather than in person. . While there may be some uncertainty as to how many times we’ll be online in the future, one thing we do know is that by teaching our kids to interact with each other in a more respectful and safe way. , we can help prevent online sexual assault and abuse.
Bill Jones, the state attorney for Dorchester County, recently spoke with For All Seasons staff about preventing sexual abuse among children who are now most at risk online. Jones and his Victim Witness Coordinator, Patti Dickerson McMahon, work with staff at the For All Seasons Rape Crisis Center to support victims of sexual assault who work within the Dorchester County justice system.
“The internet has created opportunities for so many things, and so many of these things are good, and so many of these things are bad. And in virtually any type of crime, you can imagine there is some Internet involvement, ”Jones said.
Jones points out how easy it is now to transmit data over the internet – whether it’s photographs, identifying information or location. Every day there are new apps to share information and meet people like never before.
“Let’s understand that there is a group of people who use social media for exactly what we fear the most. They are looking for children. They meet children, they groom them and they try to create situations where they can have sex with these underage children. And sometimes these children do not survive the encounter, ”he added.
Jones said children can now access the internet from so many devices – laptops for homework, iPads for games, their phones and even now smart TVs – so parents need to be vigilant in monitoring their home. online activity. Another factor during the pandemic is that children, in general, have more free time and perhaps less supervision than before when they were physically in school and participating in extracurricular activities. Parents should be aware that children can have multiple social media accounts and they can show the parent one account while hiding the activity on another.
“I think if parents were just talking to their kids from both sides – two kinds of issues that torment us the most, which is transmitting data, photographs, videos, things like that and then meeting people. Because meeting people is not a temporary thing, it is a means for something else, it is a means for a real physical encounter. . . so it’s something that starts small and then it snowballs into a dangerous situation for everyone, ”he said.
Jones suggested asking the young people the question, “Why would you want the whole world to know where you are all the time when it includes people you don’t know at all?” He said that when you do this you are not just putting yourself in danger, but your friends and family and everything in between. Jones said adults and parents alike need to ask the same question. Excessive sharing and posting a lot of information about your life and the lives of your children may not always be safe.
He said, “So really what this means is that just because you can share all of this information doesn’t mean you should.”
The NSVRC suggests the following tips that we can share with our children to protect them from online sexual harassment and abuse:
Practice consent and respect limits:
It is never okay to try to unlock someone else’s phone without permission or check their inbox or text messages.
Check if everything is fine before sharing information outside of your one-on-one chat
Accept a platform and give options when communicating, such as letting everyone know that it’s okay to leave your webcam turned off during a video call
The Maryland Coalition Against Sexual Assault suggests that as children spend more and more time online, on social media, the Internet and online games, parents need to be even more aware of the risk of online predators. They suggest that parents pay attention to the online platforms their children are using and stay alert for any signs of distress related to their children’s online activity.