BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — With schools closed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more kids are home, and their online interactions may be increasing. The FBI Boston Bureau says that puts them at an inadvertent risk.
They put out a warning earlier this week for parents, teachers, caregivers, and kids to be careful on the internet, to know the dangers of online sexual exploitation, and to recognize the signs of child abuse.
"Online sexual exploitation comes in many forms," the bureau wrote. "Individuals may coerce victims into providing sexually explicit images or videos of themselves, often in compliance with offenders’ threats to post the images publicly or send the images to victims’ friends and family.
The FBI says that, during this time of national emergency, parents and guardians need to teach their children about internet safety and boundaries, as well as review and approve any games or apps before they're downloaded.
Parents should also make sure privacy settings are set to the strictest levels possible.
They suggested encouraging open communication with your children, as they're more likely to be interacting with others online now. They said that if a child discloses exploitation to you, you should contact law enforcement.
"In order for the victimization to stop, children typically have to come forward to someone they trust—typically a parent, teacher, caregiver, or law enforcement," they wrote in their warning. "The embarrassment of being enticed and/or coerced to engage in unwanted behavior is what often prevents children from coming forward."
The FBI wants you to contact them if you or a child is being sexually exploited. They said reporting exploitation can help minimize or stop more kids from being victimized.
"Offenders may have hundreds of victims around the world, so coming forward to help law enforcement identify offenders may prevent countless other incidents of sexual exploitation," the FBI said.
If a child is experiencing abuse, the FBI said, they "may exhibit withdrawn behavior, angry outbursts, anxiety, depression, not wanting to be left alone with a specific individual, non-age appropriate sexual knowledge, and an increase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."
Read the full FBI warning here.
WBZ NewsRadio's James Rojas (@JamesRojasWBZ) reports