FBI warns school closings present potential for increased risk of child exploitation

In this Aug. 11, 2019, file photo an iPhone displays a Facebook page in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Jenny Kane, File)
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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — The FBI is putting our a warning to parents, educators, caregivers, and children about the dangers of online sexual exploitation and signs of child abuse.

The concern comes from so many children being home and online for large parts of the day.

Abuse can also occur in the home or with a caregiver.

The FBI does have recommendations on what warning signs to look for and how to protect your child.

Online Child Exploitation

  • Discuss Internet safety with children of all ages when they engage in online activity.
  • Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded.
  • Make sure privacy settings are set to the strictest level possible for online gaming systems and electronic devices.
  • Monitor your children’s use of the Internet; keep electronic devices in an open, common room of the house.
  • Check your children’s profiles and what they post online.
  • Explain to your children that images posted online will be permanently on the Internet.
  • Make sure children know that anyone who asks a child to engage in sexually explicit activity online should be reported to a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult and law enforcement.
  • Remember that victims should not be afraid to tell law enforcement if they are being sexually exploited. It is not a crime for a child to send sexually explicit images to someone if they are compelled or coerced to do so.

Child Abuse Awareness

  • Teach your children about body safety and boundaries.
  • Encourage your children to have open communication with you.
  • Be mindful of who is watching your child for childcare/babysitting, playdates and overnight visits.
  • If your child discloses abuse, immediately contact local law enforcement for assistance.
  • Children experiencing hands-on abuse may exhibit withdrawn behavior, angry outbursts, anxiety, depression, not wanting to be left alone with a specific individual, non-age appropriate sexual knowledge, and an increase in nightmares.

Reporting child exploitation

If you believe someone you know or your child is the victim of sexual exploitation:

When reporting, be as descriptive as possible in the complaint form by providing as much of the following as possible:

  • Name and/or user name of the subject.
  • Email addresses and phone numbers used by the subject.
  • Websites used by the subject.
  • Description of all interaction with the subject.
  • Try to keep all original documentation, emails, text messages, and logs of communication with the subject. Do not delete anything before law enforcement is able to review it.
  • Tell law enforcement everything about the online encounters—we understand it may be embarrassing for the parent or child, but providing all relevant information is necessary to find the offender, stop the abuse, and bring him/her to justice.

Click here for more information about the FBI’s guidance on child sexual exploitation and protecting your kids.