LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – COVID-19 has turned life upside down, from extended quarantines to online learning for students, but federal agents are warning parents of a disturbing new trend: a rise in online predator activity as kids spend more time on the internet.
Many parents know that the internet can be a dangerous place, but with kids having to spend more time on computers due to boredom and school, it’s easier than ever for predators to strike.
Kids these days are surrounded by technology, something modern-day parents have to deal with on a daily basis.
“That wasn’t in the traditional handbook,” parent Michelle Sanders said, “but [it’s] in the handbook now.” With quarantine in effect, kids are spending more of their time online. “Stay at home orders and all of that,” said Connor Hagan, public affairs officer with the FBI. “It opens up opportunities for kids to get online and get on their cell phones.”
All this internet usage opens doors to online predators, something federal agents have seen more of.
“If you look at the past couple of weeks, the number of arrests we have made with child predators in the state, it’s pretty unbelievable,” Hagan said.
Sanders and fellow parent Jahsolyn (who’s last name is not included) know the dangers of leaving a child unsupervised with a computer. “They watch a lot of videos that the teachers sent,” Jahsolyn said, “and they’re on Youtube so it’s easy access.”
The two have already implemented steps to keep their kids safe. “We walk through steps on how to keep each other safe,” Sanders explained, and for Jahsolyn, “an app that you can download on your phone that allows you to monitor what is going on.”
FBI agents say this is exactly what all parents should be doing to keep their kids safe. “Make a rule where if you’re on the internet, it’s in an open part of the house,” Hagan recommended, and the key to stopping kids from talking to strangers is better communication all around. “Be able to talk openly without making them feel worried,” Jahsolyn said.
The FBI encourages parents to report potentially worrisome or inappropriate behavior online, to help catch these predators. You can do so HERE.