School holidays are here and there's no better time to review the safeguards you have in place to protect your children from online predators and sexploitation. Here, we give you some handy tips, resources and links to help keep your family safe these holidays.
Knowing the risks
When children are online, they're at risk. They can be:
- exposed to pornographic and other harmful content (harmful content is anything your child is not developmentally ready to see. This can include exposure to violence, misleading information, terrorism, hate speech or any other offensive material).
- targeted by predators on social media, chat sites and gaming apps/platforms (online grooming takes place when an adult uses online spaces in a predatory fashion in an attempt to gain the child’s trust or heighten their curiosity about sex. Online grooming is often carried out with the aim of eventually meeting the child in person in order to sexually abuse them).
- victimised through image-based abuse (when an intimate image or video is shared without the consent of the person pictured).
Improving online safety
There's no single solution to keeping kids safe online. Parents are up against a multi-billion dollar porn industry which has a vested interest in reaching children. And the risk of exploitation by online predators has increased dramatically in recent years.
We've called for an age-verification system to help protect children from exposure to online porn, and also for big tech corporates to be held accountable for the sexual exploitation which occurs on their platforms.
While we wait for changes, here are some steps you can take to help protect your children:
1. Invest in filtering software to block harmful content
We recommend Family Zone - learn more at their website here
Bark Technologies’ comprehensive parental control tools have also been made available to Australians this year. Check out their parental control features, including content monitoring, screen time management, and website blocking here
2. Stay informed
- Follow cyber safety expert (and our very own ambassador) Susan McLean on Facebook here, and visit Cyber Safety Solutions for resources that will help you navigate the issues children and adolescents face in the digital space. Susan covers vital topics such as sexting, image-based abuse and online grooming.
- Visit eSafety - With an array of free resources including a guide to popular apps, tips for managing screen time and starting online safety discussions with children, eSafety is helping parents learn about the digital environment and stay up-to-date on children’s technology use.
- Check out Protect Young Eyes for bite-sized lessons, videos and recommendations that aim to simplify complex digital subjects and respect your busy schedule.
- Common Sense Media - Reviews for what your kids are into (before they get into it) - for any parent or guardian wanting to know more about the movies, games, apps, books and podcasts your kids are interested in.
- Think U Know - This Australian Federal Police-led program is tailored to educating and increasing awareness about online child sexual exploitation including avoiding unwanted contact, online grooming, self generated content, sexual extortion and how to get help
- Generation Next online courses - Gain FREE access for a limited time to sessions covering: 5 principles for internet safety, online bullying and mental health.
- Culture Reframed FREE online programs - These courses guide parents of teens and tweens through topics that provide skills to build your child’s resilience and resistance to hypersexualized culture and the impacts of pornography. They also provide insight into the role of technology in kids’ lives.
- If a child is in immediate danger, call ‘000’
- Report abuse of children to the Australian Centre to Counter Online Child Exploitation here
- Report online child sexual exploitation material, image-based abuse and cyberbullying to eSafety here
- Make an anonymous report to CrimeStoppers here, or phone 1800 333 000
- The Virtual Global Taskforce is a directory of global authorities you can report abuse to here
- Report online child sexual exploitation to US-based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children here
Counselling and Support Services
- Kids Helpline is a free, private and confidential 24/7 phone and online counselling service for young people aged 5 to 25.
- Lifeline is a national service providing all Australians experiencing a personal crisis with access to 24-hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
- Reach Out is an online mental health service for young people and their parents. They provide specially targeted information to help any young person who visits the service.