DVIDS – News – Safeguard Children from Online PredatorsOctober 29, 2020
Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year, the Army community has spent more time indoors and social distancing. This change in social behavior has led to an increase in Internet usage. The U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s Major Cybercrime Unit is reminding parents to safeguard their children and teenagers against invasions of privacy, cyberbullying, sexting, and other forms of harassment found online.
“Child predators have always found ways to target children, said Edward LaBarge, Director of CID’s Major Cybercrime Unit. “However, the Internet has made it extremely easy for these predators to find, chat with, and meet their victims.”
According to LaBarge, the coronavirus pandemic has increased the use of the Internet among children through more time on computers, smartphones, gaming systems, and other devices. Although many children are back to in-person learning, they are still spending more time online than ever before.
MCU officials encourage parents to take an active role in protecting their children from dangerous online activities. Regardless of whether it is to learn, play, or communicate, there are many factors available on the Internet that has the potential to influence children.
LaBarge said there is currently a wide-spectrum of age groups being targeted online. However, there is an increase of targeting toward children under the age of 13.
For this reason, it is not recommended to allow children under the age of 13 years old to have social media accounts or access to social media applications. LaBarge also recommends to monitor a child’s online activity and track browser history, text messages and photos to verify there are “no red flags that need to be addressed.”
“Any device connected to the Internet has the potential to be used by these predators to engage in conversations with your child,” he warned. “Smartphones, gaming consoles, computers, tablets, etc. all provide an avenue for these predators to engage with children.
”Parents are also encouraged to have conversations with their children about the dangers of online predators and to maintain an open line of communication with their children.
“The best tactic is to routinely discuss online safety with your child,” said LaBarge. “More and more children are starting to have cellular telephones and access to Internet connected devices at very young ages. It is very important to discuss and reinforce safety. Parents should start talking about safety in general as early as possible.”
The MCU recommends parents lay out “ground rules and boundaries” prior to children gaining access to electronic devices connected to the Internet.
“Never let your child have free rein on any electronic device,” said LaBarge. “It is important to discuss safety and boundaries before giving access and lay…