Children and young people may become more isolated and lonely as lockdown continues and they will be spending more and more time online. The NSPCC has warned that this, combined with a shortage of moderators who combat sexual abuse online has created ‘a perfect storm’ for abusers to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent article in The Guardian (April 2020) notes that Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union, said it had seen “increased online activity by those seeking child abuse material”. Staff, volunteers, and parents and carers in particular, should be aware of what their children and young people are doing online and educate them about how to stay safe. They should be vigilant to possible signs of abuse and encourage children and young people to tell them if anything or anyone makes them feel uncomfortable. Online abuse can happen on any device connected to the web. Children and young people use text messaging, email, apps, online chats and gaming sites regularly to communicate, and abuse can occur via any of these means. It can include children and young people being persuaded or forced to send sexually explicit images of themselves, or take part in sexual activities or conversations. It also includes exposing or flashing, or showing a child or young person pornography. Children and young people are often ‘groomed’ for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation online. Grooming can also happen online or in person, with groomers hiding their true intentions. There are generally 6 stages of grooming:
During the COVID-19 pandemic, with the absence of normal face to face activities, organisations are having to look at alternative ways of communicating with the children and young people, including online. Organisations are using lots of different methods to stay connected such as text messaging, email and video calls. However, communication via these means brings safeguarding challenges that must be managed. Here are some guidelines to help staff and volunteers communicate safely with children and young people online:
Safer Internet Day 2020 will be celebrated globally with the theme: Together for a Better Internet.
Boys & Girls Clubs are pleased to support Safer Internet Day again this year.
It calls upon young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, policymakers, and wider, to join together in helping to create a better internet.
For further reading visit https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/safer-internet-day/2020