COVID fuels surge in online child abuse

Updated: Sep. 22, 2020 at 8:09 PM CDT
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FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - Your kids are likely spending more time in front of a computer, tablet, or smartphone because of coronavirus.

Experts warn that increased screen time is also leading to an increase in online sex crimes against kids.

Last week, WAFF mentioned there has been a steady report of child abuse cases out of Cramer Children’s Center. They are now finding that is linked to a rise in online child exploitation.

“Children are online more than they ever have been before,” said Kim Bevis with Cramer children’s center. “The largest thing we see online is something called sextortion.”

With children at home in front of screens and on social media more, Bevis says that COVID has opened the door even wider for predators to exploit kids.

That’s why it is important to not only monitor how your kids are spending time online, but who they’re communicating with.

“The perfect example of that is if a person befriends a child online and gets the child to send them naked pictures of themselves, then they threaten to reveal and share those pictures with someone like their parents or their friends,” said Bevis.

She says that at least 15 percent of their caseload involves online child sex abuse. One thing that parents can do is have healthy, honest conversations with their children about online dangers.

“That’s a real big thing I think parents should tell their kids is that they trust them no matter what and that they forgive them for anything they have done but please come to them because that’s what causes a lot of problems sometimes with the extortion is that kids are so fearful,” said Bevis.

If you have suspicious online activity to report, you can call your local police department, Cramer Children’s Center, or the National Children’s Advocacy Center in Huntsville.

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