It’s Time to Talk to Your Kids About Sexual Predators on the Internet
Do you know what zoom bombing is? Me too – about 2 minutes ago. My 15-year-old cousin chatted with Zoom with her high school basketball teammates. All this was a hoop and happiness, while – boom! – they were not hacked to death by an unknown predator and its not very intimate parts.
Obviously, the girls were shocked by what they faced. They were also willing to do the right thing: they immediately reported the incident to a trusted adult as they had been taught to do.
COVID-19 has transformed homes across the country into prep schools and virtual arcades. Kids are more online now than ever – e-learning, zooming, gaming and social media crawling – and this increase means it is more important than ever to talk to them about online safety and how to protect themselves from online predators and sexual abuse.
Also thanks to COVID-19: Children are literally a captive audience. “This confinement – and the resulting increase in family time – is a boon for parents looking for natural opportunities to talk about personal safety,” said Dr. Tia Kim, vice president of education, research and influence at the Committee on Children’s Affairs. …
“I think we have so much time with our family right now,” Kim says. “At first it was a lot of juggling and school work, but I [then] realized that the best side of the coin was being able to sit and have family dinners. This is a great opportunity to have a good conversation. “
Talk to hot chocolate
Hot Chocolate Talk is a campaign developed by the Children’s Committee to help families start talking about child sexual abuse. As part of the campaign, the organization is offering a free guide to eliminate guesswork – and possibly some awkwardness – when talking to parents. You will be given the exact words to use, broken down by age group, and a strategy for conveying them in a comfortable environment along with a cozy treat.
“We worked with researchers and parent focus groups, and when talking about personal safety and sexual abuse, it came up as a topic that the parents knew it was important but didn’t know how to conduct the conversation,” Kim says.
While a warm chocolate drink is always welcome, the key is to create a conducive atmosphere for conversation. These chats should be as open, honest and comfortable as possible.
“We wanted to celebrate these looks,” Kim says. “Be relaxed and comfortable. It is much more difficult for adults to talk than for children. “
Kim recommends looking for ways to transform the conversation into a natural setting, such as before bed, before a visit to the pediatrician, or while your child is sitting at the computer.
“When my kids were younger, during potty training and bathing, it was a natural time to talk about what’s personal and what’s appropriate,” Kim says. “My oldest son now plays a lot of online games. I will use this time to remind him not to divulge personal information. “
Personal safety conversations can start early and need to happen frequently.
“When kids can naturally start naming body parts, I think it’s the perfect transition to start these conversations and set rules,” she says.
Talking tips by age group
The Committee for Children offers downloadable, practical guides for talking about sexual abuse with a wide range of children, from toddlers to teens:
Keep it short and simple. Focus on personal safety rules, correct naming of body parts, and how to avoid unwanted touching.
Be more specific about your personal safety rules and remind your child of them regularly.
Explore family safety guidelines and explain in detail about privacy, the different types of touch, and how to recognize behaviors that make them uncomfortable.
Many of the same safety rules apply to older children, but perhaps they should be phrased in a more open way. Instead of talking one-sidedly about safe solutions that your child may be oblivious to, focus on developing open, honest, and ongoing dialogue.
Setting clear safety rules in person and online is a good idea, both to create a structure for children and to help parents keep track of what their children are facing, Kim said.
“In our house, the rule of online games is that you can’t play with anyone you don’t know,” she says. “Everything should be on the speaker. It only helps us, but other people have different rules. “
If you are in the process of creating safety rules for your family, or simply retooling existing ones, Kim recommends including 3 safety rules in it:
- Recognize inappropriate behavior
- Give up the behavior
- Report Behavior
“[Set it] on the internet that no one can ask for your personal information or send or receive pictures of private parts of your body,” Kim says. “[Make it clear] that you can opt out of unwanted ‘touching’ that occurs in person or on the Internet.”
While these conversations may be awkward at first, the goal is to make them less unpleasant by getting on to them as early as possible and continually reinforcing the message. And with your kids online and at home more than ever, now is the time to make them a priority.