Child sexual abuse happens online, too.
As adults, we can prevent abuse by staying informed about children’s online activities and maintaining open communication.
Prevent online abuse
Preventing child sexual abuse begins with open communication, and the same is true when it comes to talking about internet safety. Ensure that your children know that they can come to you if anything makes them uncomfortable. Other ways to prevent online abuse include:
- Over many months, use small doses of open and direct communication about online safety.
- Demonstrate interest in your child’s online activity by using the internet with them, and be aware of who they talk to online. Be their Facebook friend and follow them on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat.
- Have plenty of unplugged family and social time.
- Use privacy settings and parent controls. Set rules and limits for when and how long kids can be online, and consider posting the rules or a pledge by the family computer. Be aware that restriction will increase curiosity.
- Do not post nude or partially nude pictures of any children online, including your own.
Recognize warning signs of online abuse
Abuse most often starts with a series of manipulative behaviors that escalate over time. Warning signs of potential abuse can include:
- Sudden excessive amount of screen time that is not typical
- Extreme emotions related to devices or particular aspects of internet use
- Withdrawing from friends and family
- Minimizing screen or turning off monitor when others enter the room
- Communicating with or receiving gifts in mail from unknown persons
- Children having private passwords
Internet safety reporting, resources & training
Online safety violations should always be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s National CyberTipline: 1-800-843-5678 (answered 24/7) or report.cybertip.org
Within Chicago, you can also report to the Chicago Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit at 312-492-3810.
Local internet safety trainings
ChicagoCAC offers trainings for parents/caregivers about online sexual abuse prevention. Some of our investigative partners also offer internet safety education.
- Request Keeping Children Safe Online training from ChicagoCAC
- Chicago Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit: 312-492-3810 or contact Sgt. Tannia Franchini, Chicago Police Department at email@example.com
- Kathleen McGowan, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, 312-492-3176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- Illinois ICAC Task Force in Cook County: 312-492-3178
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Internet Safety Program: netsmartz.org/internetsafety
Internet Safety Resources for Parents, Caregivers, Professionals and Youth
- Netsmartz: From the National Center from Missing and Exploited Children, this provides resources for those who have been affected by online abuse and various educational materials about the different environments in which abuse can occur
- Thorn.org: This non-profit not only creates tools to educate and support parents and youth about online abuse, they do incredible research about youth’s online behavior and the prevalence of certain kinds of abuse.
- CISA: Chatting with Kids Booklet: A booklet designed to help guardians speak to their young kids, tweens, and teens about being safe online.
- Family Online Safety Institute: Provides internet safety resources for parents and professionals
- www.webwise.ie: Promotes the autonomous, effective, and safer use of the internet by young people through a sustained information and awareness strategy targeting parents, teachers, and children themselves with consistent and relevant messages.