Online predators alert
LIFESTYLE - THE Covid-19 pandemic has turned the schooling system on its head with many schools using online and social media workflows as the return to class is phased in.
A number of families have also opted to homeschool their children for the remainder of the year.
The ripple effects of the coronavirus pandemic have resulted in greater use of online technology by children. This has created more opportunities for abusers.
Adeshni Naicker, the acting director of Childline KZN, said the lockdown had led to an increase in online time.
“The closure of schools and the restriction of activities means more parents are relying on technology to keep their children learning, stimulated and entertained. The increase in children online, as well as their time online, has created a haven for predators,” said Naicker.
She outlined the common modus operandi used by predators to ensnare children.
“Cat-fishing is definitely on the increase. It seems to be the easiest way to lure youngsters into online relationships, whether romantic or platonic.
“Predators have a knack for leading children to believe they care more about them than any member of their family.
“Grooming also takes place online, and any strange or unanswerable gift your child receives should be a warning sign for parents.”
She warned that children are attracted to free downloads, like free video and online games, which predators used as avenues to spy on them.
“Very often, spyware is attached to these downloads, unbeknown to the user. Spyware is a program that can monitor all your activity and is able to access information that is meant to be secure and private. Predators create different websites and downloads to lure your child.”
Asked how parents should tackle the issue, Naicker said they needed to be proactive and speak openly about the dangerous activities that were online.
“Stranger danger is no longer adequate. You should have transparent conversations about who and how they are communicating online.”
Naicker shared these tips:
- Teach your children about privacy settings.
- Set rules about when, how and where the internet can be used. Ensure that devices are in a common area. Younger children should not be allowed to have computers in their rooms.
- If rules regarding online time and activity are broken, online privileges should be withheld as a consequence.
- With younger children, monitor their activity. Pay attention to what your child is doing online and don’t use technology as a way of getting your child out of your hair. Children are curious and will explore. However, they do not have the capacity to keep themselves safe while online.
- Your child’s devices must have the latest anti-virus programs. Parents need to keep abreast of technology and new tools that will help keep their children safe online. These measures will also benefit your child long after the lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Naicker said children must be provided with a support structure if they felt threatened or unsafe online.
Childline KZN also offers counselling and support to children who need to reach out. They can be contacted at 080 005 5555.