Since the pandemic, the NSPCC has reported a 45% increase in calls from people worried about online sexual abuse. If you are worried about your children’s safety when using the internet, this could be the article you have been waiting for.
Computer security expert David Jones from Firewall Technical has revealed some of the ways your children could be vulnerable to online predators and how you can protect them.
Does your child use apps you don’t know about?
Online sexual abuse can occur when your child is befriended by a sexual predator pretending to be another child. As their friendship and trust grow the sexual predator will then try to illicit sexual images or videos which they then use as blackmail against your child.
Parents are often oblivious to this happening as they don’t allow their kids to play adult games. However, this is where a mistake is made. Sexual predators can gain access to your child through children’s games or apps and then take the conversation to messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Kik or Snapchat.
To protect your children online you will need to monitor any games that they play, any websites that they visit and even look at the messages on their phone. Sexual predators will know that parents will try to give their children privacy so they will use that to prey on children.
Do you watch your child when they use the internet?
As a hard-working parent, it can be tempting to give your child a phone or a tablet device and allow them to play while you sit back and relax for an hour. It’s easy to not recognise the dangers this can cause.
As a parent, you wouldn’t leave your children play outside with strange men and women. While you may not realise it, giving your child unfiltered access to the internet while not watching them is the same thing.
To protect your child when using the internet at home make sure you can see them and the screen at all times. You can also make it a rule where no computers are used in their bedrooms too.
Have you set parental controls?
Your website browser will have parental controls installed which may be able to filter out adult searches when browsing online. The built-in filters won’t catch everything, so as a parent you may want to look at external apps that you can install to provide better protection.
Parental control apps are available for Windows, macOS, Chromebook, iOS, Android, and even Kindle devices. These apps can monitor your children’s usage, block unsuitable content and even allow you to set time limits to avoid screen addiction.
Do you know who your children’s online friends are?
As adults, we know how dark the world can be, and sometimes a person isn’t who they say they are. Children on the other hand can be naive and trusting.
Sexual predators prey on your child being naive. To protect your child you will need to monitor their online friends and their social media usage. Your child may resist but to keep them safe you will need to know who they are chatting to online.
Is personal information published online?
In the age of social media, it’s very easy to find out information about someone by monitoring their social channels. If your child has a social media account it’s important to discuss the dangers of having one and also discuss the type of content that they should be sharing.
Posting images of your home, your street, or your school could give a predator enough information to know more about your child’s movements and activities which could put them in danger.
If the content you are sharing on your social channels is something that you wouldn’t share with a stranger, don’t post it.
Does your child use apps that share their GPS data?
Social media apps can use your child’s location data and display it online if it isn’t disabled. This data can show where you are in the world at that exact moment which could lead a sexual predator right to your child’s location. You can turn off location data in the settings of the app.
Photos can also include something called metadata which can store the latitude and longitude of where an image was taken. If your child is uploading these images online it can once again reveal their location and could put them in a dangerous situation.
Some social media networks remove the metadata from an image but some don’t so always check before sharing anything online.