FBI warns parents to watch for online predators while children are at home


EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The FBI is reminding parents to protect their children from online predators especially while school is out due to COVID-19.

In fact, the risk may have increased as children may have an increased online presence due to the extended break from school, a news release from the FBI said.

The agency also reminds parents that online sexual exploitation comes in many forms.

“Individuals may coerce victims into providing sexually explicit images or videos of themselves, often in compliance with offenders’ threats to post the images publicly or send the images to victims’ friends and family,” an FBI news release said. “Other offenders may make casual contact with children online, gain their trust, and introduce sexual conversation that increases in egregiousness over time. Ultimately this activity may result in maintaining an online relationship that includes sexual conversation and the exchange of illicit images, to eventually physically meeting the child in-person.” 

Children who have been victimized may be hesitant to speak up due to embarrassment, that’s why it is important to have communication with your children.

“During these uncertain conditions, where time with other adults and caregivers has increased immensely, parents/guardians should communicate with their children about appropriate contact with adults and watch for any changes in behavior, including an increase in nightmares, withdrawn behavior, angry outbursts, anxiety, depression, not wanting to be left alone with an individual, and sexual knowledge,” the release said. 

The following tips should help parents and guardians to protect their children:

  • Discuss Internet safety with children of all ages when they engage in online activity.
  • Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded.
  • Make sure privacy settings are set to the strictest level possible for online gaming systems and electronic devices.
  • Monitor your children’s use of the Internet; keep electronic devices in an open, common room of the house.
  • Check your children’s profiles and what they post online.
  • Explain to your children that images posted online will be permanently on the Internet.
  • Make sure children know that anyone who asks a child to engage in sexually explicit activity online should be reported to a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult and law enforcement.

“Remember that victims should not be afraid to tell law enforcement if they are being sexually exploited,” the release said. “It is not a crime for a child to send sexually explicit images to someone if they are compelled or coerced to do so.”

Anyone who believes they, or someone they know, is a victim of child sexual exploitation should do the following:

  • Contact your local law enforcement agency.
  • Contact the local FBI Division or submit a tip online at tips.fbi.gov.
  • File a report with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) at 1-800-843-5678 or online at www.cybertipline.org

When reporting, you will be asked to provide the following:

  • Name and/or user name of the offender.
  • Email addresses and phone numbers used by the offender.
  • Websites used by the offender.
  • Description of all interaction with the offender.
  • Try to keep all original documentation, emails, text messages, and logs of communication with the offender. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
  • Tell law enforcement everything about the online encounters—we understand it may be embarrassing for the parent or child, but providing all relevant information is necessary to find the offender, stop the abuse, and bring him/her to justice.

For more information visit: https://www.fbi.gov/scams-and-safety/protecting-your-kids.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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