Online paedophile’s exploit COVID-19 lockdown.
Why COVID-19 is creating the perfect opportunities for online paedophiles
For many parents, keeping their children at home with them during the COVID-19 pandemic means shielding them from the clutches of the deadly virus. What many parents will be blissfully unaware of however is that another threat may be potentially lurking, as paedophiles are looking at ways to exploit the crisis.
With social distancing and school closures having been in place since mid-March, the majority of children are now spending almost all of their time confined to their homes. This coupled with the fact that increasing numbers of parents are now trying to work from home, means that many children are now spending significantly more time, unsupervised, on the internet than ever before.
The internet is in many ways a godsend to parents during this unprecedented time as it is helping them to home educate their children in a way that would never have been possible even just a few years ago. But despite the magnificence of the internet, the online world also comes with great risk.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned of a resulting spike in online child sex offending during the Coronavirus and has warned parents and carers to ensure children know how to remain safe (The Independent).
In a new assessment the NCA says there are at least 300,000 sex abusers posing a threat, some of whom are discussing how to exploit the school shutdown (Sky News).
A survey by insurers Zurich has revealed that 1 in 10, 7-17 year olds claim they are unmonitored online during the lockdown. The company said that it found that a fifth of those surveyed admitted chatting to strangers online. (Sky News).
The NSPCC has raised concern that tech firms have had to scale back on the number of moderators tackling sexual abuse, giving offenders an ‘unprecedented opportunity’ to target children who are spending more time online and are increasingly lonely or anxious because of the lockdown (The Guardian).
To illustrate the risk posed online the NCA has produced a series of 15-minute activity packages for parents and carers to complete with their children. They are available on the NCA’s social media platforms and also via thinkyouknow.co.uk.
So what can you do to protect your child online?
It is important, more now than ever, for parents to have regular conversations with their children about online safety. Make sure that your child knows that they can talk to you if they are worried about anything. Ask them about their friends online and how they know they are who they say they are.
If your child plays games online check that the content is appropriate. Some games enable you to change the settings to turn of communication features.
Set up parental controls. Parental controls can filter, or even block, inappropriate content. Parental controls can also limit the amount of time that your child spends online.
More guidance around online safety can be found at: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/online-safety/