During this pandemic and national crisis, we have all been ordered to stay at home. It is the safest place to be right now. Those of us working from home can use the space it provides to tackle those tasks that can’t be completed in a busy office. But with children at home too, the situation is a little more complicated.
Now schools and most workplaces are closed, but nobody is actually on holiday. Homeworking parents will be expected to put in a productive 8-hour day, whilst home-schooling and supervising their children. That’s in addition to regular day-to-day tasks involved in feeding the family and maintaining a home. Parents have got a lot on their mind.
Some parents will have been laid-off from work which brings additional stresses and worries. In this pressurised environment, we are all having to re-negotiate house rules and carve out space and quiet time. Right now, it would be understandable and even seem logical to relax some of the house rules.
Children and young people will be missing their usual social interactions and are likely to be using social media platforms to stay connected with friends. But they will also be using the internet for schoolwork and entertainment; gaming, and chatrooms – there is going to be a substantial increase in their online presence too and we all just have to accept that.
As head of safeguarding for a Safety Tech company, I’ve spent the last few days immersed in the Internet Investigation Report published this month, which looks at online child sexual abuse. The report makes it clear: the true scale of offending and the number of children who have been victims of online ‑facilitated child sexual abuse is likely to be far higher than the number of reported offences. We all need to take action to confront this problem, and this lock-down might be the best opportunity we have ever had to tackle it
What all parents and guardians need to know is that the internet is not a safe place for children and young people and there has been a rapid escalation in the number of children being groomed on the internet, particularly on social media platforms. Whilst online, our children and young people are being exposed to perpetrators who commit online facilitated sexual offences.
TOP TIPS FOR KEEPING CHILDREN SAFE DURING LOCKDOWN:
· Start as you mean to go on and keep your child’s day as structured as possible.
· Limit phone time as would happen if they were at school.
· In downtime, engage with your child. Ask them about any messages from their school friends and show interest in the news from their friendship group.
· After work, plan family time such as a film or walking the dog.
· Don’t let your child withdraw with their phone for long periods of time without checking in on them.
· When a laptop is not in use for video chat, cover the camera.
· Ensure children are dressed appropriately for video chat, in a suitable space within your home.
· The bedroom or bathroom are NOT appropriate places for video chat.
· Be aware of what others can see in the background of your video call. Be conscious that people you do not know can see your room, home and others around you.
· Ensure that you and your child log out completely after any video calls and if in doubt switch the laptop off and on after use. Do not accidentally leave you microphone, or camera switched on.
· Switch your devices off during the night and ideally leave them in a box in your kitchen.
· Be wary about your children communicating with their headphones on - if your house environment allows it, ensure their speaker is audible to you.
· Become Cyber Curious: Ask your child to teach you how to play the latest video game they are into or get them to show you how different apps work and what they do. The reason we suggest you do this is to:
· Learn about your child’s cyberlife and how they use the internet
· Keep pace with your child’s rapidly changing world
· Keep yourself up to speed on the latest Apps and how they work so you can identify risks ahead of time
· Make conversations with your child about their phones and their online activities a natural and normal everyday occurrence.
The SafeToNet app is available for free and parents can install it on their child’s devices with minimum fuss. The SafeToNet app will not show parents who a child is talking to or what they are saying because the technology has been designed to respect each child’s right to privacy. Instead the app will give parents an indication of their child’s risk levels in relation to their online behaviour and usage patterns.
· The NSPCC estimates that half a million men in the UK may have viewed indecent images of children.
· Around 750,000 individuals across the world are estimated to be looking for sexual contact with children at any one time, according to the WeProtect Global Alliance.
· 94% of Child Sexual Abuse Material found online by the Internet Watch Foundation features children aged 13 or younger.
· In 2019 the tech industry reported 6.9 million child sexual abuse images and videos, up by 50% in just 12 months.
· More than 3.5 million accounts are now registered to the most dangerous dark web sites, according to the UK’s National Strategic Assessment.
· UK law enforcement record more than 10 grooming offences per day, and arrest 400-450 individuals a month for online child sexual abuse or exploitation offences.
· Of 2,082 images and videos recorded by the IWF in August-October 2017, 96% depicted a child on their own, usually in a home setting like a bedroom or bathroom.
Online resources: the Thinkuknow website is packed with tips, information, guidance and videos for both parents and children.
Sarah Castro MBE, Head of Safeguarding at SafeToNet
Sarah Castro MBE has over twenty years of experience of working closely with the government, the police, charities, local authorities and social housing organisations. She has spearheaded initiatives within some of London’s most disadvantaged communities and led pioneering projects on community engagement, crime, anti-social behaviour, health & wellbeing and violent extremism. She has also acted as independent advisor to the Metropolitan Police.
Read more of Sarah Castro’s blog posts here
SafeToNet is a multi-award-winning cyber safety company and global authority in online safeguarding. The pioneering SafeToNet app uses artificial intelligence to detect and filter predatory risks, like bullying, grooming, abuse and aggression, online in real-time, helping children deal with the mental health issues associated with living in a digital world.