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July 5, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed nearly every aspect of our lives—from how we work, to how our children learn, to where we can and can’t go. Parents are stretched thin by work and stress, and a lack of childcare may leave the virtual door open for online predators to contact their children.
At our house, we’ve been scrambling to balance family time, eLearning, work and fun, and it has definitely meant more time online than usual for our daughters. As your State Attorney for Hillsborough County, and especially as a father to two young girls, I understand how vital it is to keep our children safe online.
Make sure your child knows that the online world has people who may try to take advantage of them. Explain how they may be approached and that strangers sometimes pretend to be a kid their age. That dialogue will help your kids understand that they should come to you if someone tries to exploit them or bully them online. For videos and articles to help you start the conversation, visit consumer.ftc.gov/topics/protecting-kids-online.
Know their social media and messenger passwords and log in from time to time to see what they’re sending and receiving. Make sure they’re using strong privacy settings on services like Instagram, Facebook, Twitch and Discord.
Many devices and apps let you choose what your child can access and for how long. Set up those controls and use them. Parental controls are not perfect, and no app can replace the number one tip: Talk to your children about how to react if they’re approached online.
The prosecutors in your State Attorney’s Office work hand-in-hand with law enforcement to aggressively prosecute predators who target children. Our office’s Victim Assistance Program offers support to thousands of victims of crime each year, including human trafficking and child exploitation victims.
As parents, we’re the first line of defense for our children. Following these tips for a “Secure Summer” will help keep all our kids safe.