April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and it’s an important time to talk about the online exploitation of children. Today, children are spending more time at home and they’re spending more time on the internet. The ability to learn and play online has been a lifeline for many children and families this past year; however, it also comes with increased vulnerability to online exploitation. In the year 2020 alone, we’ve seen the rate of incidents of online enticement increase 97.5% compared to the year prior
The threat of online exploitation can seem overwhelming, but the answer is simple: talk to your child. Among the best ways to keep your child safe from online forms of abuse is to engage them in conversation about healthy relationships and boundaries. You may be thinking, ‘What’s the point? My kid won’t listen anyway’; but research shows that parents have a bigger influence on their kid’s decision-making than they think. According to a recent study conducted by Thorn, 8 out of 10 kids ages 9-12 say that parents/caregivers are the biggest source of influence when it comes to the decisions they make about how to behave online! More than teachers, friends and even their favorite celebrities, most kids said their parents ranked highest among those who influence their online behavior.
We know that talking to your kid about online safety can be intimidating, so here are some tips to get started:
A lot of the same things that keep children safe offline will protect them while they’re online. According to Susan Kennedy, prevention program manager at NCMEC, the most important factor in prevention is making sure your children are connected to caring adults who can have open conversations with them about things like good boundaries, consent and self-esteem.
For help navigating these conversations, visit https://www.missingkids.org/netsmartz, NCMEC’s website dedicated to providing parents and educators with resources for teaching children about internet safety. Show your child the latest season of our animated web series, Into the Cloud, then use the companion discussion guides and activities to start a dialogue! Kids can explore videos and games about online safety independently at www.NetSmartzKids.org.