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. 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
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
- ChicagoCAC offers trainings for parents/caregivers about prevention of online sexual abuse.
- Local internet safety reports and training:
- Chicago Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit: 312-492-3810 or Sgt. Tannia Franchini, Chicago Police Department at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Kathleen McGowan, Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, 312-492-3176 or email@example.com
- Illinois ICAC Task Force in Cook County: 312-492-3178
- National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Internet Safety Program: netsmartz.org/internetsafety
National CyberTipline: 1-800-843-5678 (answered 24/7) or report.cybertip.org