A new online safety guide is being released today for parents and others who are buying technology for children this festive season.
Developed by the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation and the AFP’s ThinkUKnow program, the Gaming, Devices and What You Need to Know safety guide is designed to provide easy steps to help protect children online.
AFP Commander ACCCE and Human Exploitation Hilda Sirec said tech was on many children’s Christmas wish lists this year.
“This guide has been launched to help parents and carers minimise the risk of inappropriate contact and online child sexual exploitation on popular devices,” Commander Sirec said.
“One of the best gifts parents and carers can give children is safety and protection.
“Don’t give an offender the chance to connect with your child this holiday season.”
Commander Sirec said many popular devices had safety features that parents and carers could use to help minimise the risk of inappropriate contact.
Strategies include checking privacy settings on devices and turning off location settings, setting profiles to private, and turning off chat functions.
“This is a busy time for parents and carers, however, it’s important to be aware of how your children will use these devices – especially ones that connect to the internet.”
Commander Sirec said even if parents or carers were not buying tech for their children this Christmas, the resource could still be used for the devices already at homes.
“Can I implore everyone to implement parental controls on devices and talk to children about how to build safe online habits,” Commander Sirec said.
“Just as you would ask your child about their day, ask them what apps, social media and games they are using online, and use our resource to explore and navigate their features. A direct message or chat function can allow anyone to make contact with your child.
“Most importantly, supervise your children when they’re online by encouraging screen time in shared areas of the home. This is a critical factor in preventing self-produced child abuse material and online grooming,”
Online offenders use the privacy and anonymity of the internet to identify and target children. They often use a direct message function to first approach a child and convince them to move to an image sharing platform to elicit child abuse material.
The ACCCE Child Protection Triage Unit (CPTU) usually experience spikes in reporting of online child exploitation incidents after holiday periods. Last financial year, the CPTU received more than 22,000 reports.
Parents can keep their children safe by having open conversations about online safety from an early age, and continuing this dialogue throughout all stages of development.
Be approachable if your child needs help. Coming forward isn’t always easy, and children may feel reluctant to tell you about online issues if they believe they will be punished or have their devices taken away.
If parents are concerned about an issue that has happened online, it is critical children are supported. Parents and carers can make a report online by alerting the ACCCE via the Report Abuse button at www.accce.gov.au/report.