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Parents: Increased screen time could lead to trouble for children

Online child exploitation complaints see increase
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Posted at 9:46 PM, Aug 18, 2020

KOKOMO — Children are spending so much time online these days. Many are attending school virtually, either Monday-Friday or some of the week. On top of that, with so many popular activities and events being canceled, kids may be turning to their computers more for entertainment.

All of that can lead to problems, according to the Howard County Prosecutor. Mark McCann is reminding parents, grandparents and guardians to be constantly vigilant when it comes to what children are exposed to and interacting with online.

"We've already seen the numbers of online exploitation complaints rise this past spring when lockdowns ramped us across the world," said McCann. "The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a global organization that disseminates tips to law enforcement, cataloged 4.1 million reports of cyber abuse against children in April 2020, four times as many complaints as they received in April of 2019."

It can happen to anyone. "Online predators can pretend to be many different people on many different sites in an attempt to befriend children and teens before trying to coerce them into sending photos or videos or meeting in person," said McCann. "Parents and guardians have to be diligent in monitoring social media use, staying up to date on the latest apps and trends, as well as having open conversations about internet safety."

Here are sine potential warning signs:

  • A child constantly online and not wanting to do anything else.
  • Becoming angry when not able to get online.
  • Turning off the computer or locking their screen when an adult enters a room.
  • Receiving calls or packages from people a parent or guardian doesn't know.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.

McCann recommends this website as a resource for adults: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/