The COVID-19 pandemic has been an unprecedented time for everyone, but especially children. In an instant, their entire lives were adapted to become completely virtual. Schools, playgrounds, parks, and social gatherings across Canada and the globe were shut down to protect the public from the spread of the virus.
Since this pandemic has begun, children and teenagers had to quickly adapt to moving their academic and social lives from real life to online. Families are now relying on technology to help keep children educated, entertained and connected to their friends and family.
Technology has been an amazing tool for children during this pandemic. However, it also comes with a heightened risk of cyber bullying and harassment. Cybertip.ca, an online tip line for the sexual exploitation of children that is operated by the Canadian Centre of Child Protection, had a spike in reports this past April.
Stephen Sauer, director of Cybertip.ca, told Global BC News, “We typically receive [about] six reports a day. Now, [we’ve been getting] about 10 reports a day.”
Sauer also told Global BC that there is a correlation between the pandemic shutdown and the spike in cases of online sexual harassment of children. Since children are mostly staying home, they are likely going online more often.
Predators are aware of this and are taking advantage of it. This situation may be even more dangerous if a child is left unsupervised while their parents work from home.
So how can we protect our children during this unprecedented time? We’ve compiled a list of tips and strategies for families to help protect their children of the online dangers during the pandemic (and beyond).
Educate your child about technology by using technology
Protecting your child by helping educate them on the dangers of the online world is the first step of prevention. It is important to help explain to children the risks so they can be more aware and help prevent potential dangers themselves.
There are also great virtual games that help teach children online safety. In our previous blog post on surviving domestic violence during the pandemic, we touched on Media Smarts creating various educational online games to help children learn about online safety.
Zoe & Molly Online is another helpful online resource to help teach children about online safety. It is an interactive game geared towards kids in grades 3-4. As children progress through the game, the level of knowledge will increase.
Educate yourself about the games or apps your child is using
Just as important as it is to educate your child, taking the time to learn about online safety as a parent will also help prevent online dangers.
ProtectKidsOnline.ca is a fantastic resource to help keep parents educated on the best practices of online safety for kids. They cover a variety of topics for online safety, keep up-to-date with emerging issues and help profile and identify concerning behaviours. They also have an Ask A Question page, where you can email directly with any questions that you may have but couldn’t find the answer to on their website.
Another great resource for parents to have to help protect their children is simply learning about an app or game that your child uses. Knowing how an app or game works will help you as a parent monitor and manage your child’s online time or even help you decide if the program is not safe at all for your child to use.
YouTube is another helpful website to utilize in learning about almost any game or app, as many people post videos of tutorials and reviews. There are also many educational video channels designed to be resources specifically for parents.
Monitor and manage your child’s screen time
Despite most parents being at home with their children during the pandemic, it is not easy to be monitoring their children while they are online, as many parents are trying to balance parenting and working from home. However, there are a lot of great apps that can help with monitoring and managing online time for children.
Bark is one of the top apps to help manage your children’s online activity without being invasive on their privacy. It provides a simple overview of all of your child’s online activity. If you see anything suspicious, it allows you the option to dig deeper.
Many social media websites also have great tools to help monitor your kid’s online account. Facebook has created Messenger Kids, which helps kids stay connected with their friends but allows parents to monitor their account.
For a list of more apps, check out this link.
If you suspect your child is being harassed
If you believe your child is at risk of cyber exploitation, there are many resources you can use to reach out for help.
Cyber tip.ca has a report form that you can fill out to get assistance. If needed, they will also send your report to local authorities if your child is at a high risk.
If you know your child is at immediate risk, please contact your local police or call 9-1-1 right away.
For more tips on how to protect your child online, check out this link.
Are there any resources we missed? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!