Protecting children online remains a priority for the AFP throughout COVID-19 crisis
The protection of children remains a high priority for the Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) and state and territory police Australia-wide, with new resources and an online safety challenge launched last week.
With the increased use of web based platforms for children of all ages, including those typically attending preschool, family day care or long day care settings, the resources are timely, and will be of interest to those in the early childhood education and care sector.
Previous research conducted by ACCCE revealed that information seeking and discussion about online children sexual exploitation is generally only undertaken in response to a specific event, by which time, the damage may have already been done. The core message during the pandemic is “prevention is critical in countering the exploitation of children online.”
As such, the AFP and ACCCE have released a national online safety challenge to Australians to help safeguard their families against online exploitation, and new online safety home learning resources for parents and carers as part of the ThinkUKnow program.
Seven day online safety challenge
The challenge involves a daily simple task for parents and carers to complete, to help kick-start their journey in helping protect their children.
New ThinkUKnow resources – home learning activity packs
New home learning activity packs support parents and carers and address the challenges associated with children spending more time online. To access the activity packs visit: https://www.thinkuknow.org.au/for-parents-and-carers
AFP Assistant Commissioner for the ACCCE and Child Protection Operations, Lesa Gale, said the AFP, ACCCE and state and territory police will continue to work together to keep children safe during COVID-19.
“We want to reassure the community that we have bolstered our efforts, sharing of information and enhanced coordination to investigate online child sexual exploitation,” Assistant Commissioner Gale said.
Children are at an increased level of risk during the pandemic not only because they are spending more time online, but also because they are isolated from ECEC settings, schools, friends and community members who would otherwise support with mandated reporting, Officer in Charge of the Victorian Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team (JACET), Acting Inspector Karen Bennett, said.
While social media apps can support children to stay in touch with friends and family, and access educational material, these apps may also bring children into contact with strangers, something which Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec from the New South Wales Police Force Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad said was a potential risk.
“NSW Police have increased their commitment to targeting those who use the internet to prey on our kids during this time – with specialist officers now working seven-days a week to monitor these activities,” Detective Superintendent Kerlatec said.
To learn more about keeping children safe online in an early childhood context, please see here.