AFP urging parents to keep children safe online these school holidays
The Australian Federal Police (AFP) is urging parents and carers to educate themselves about technology gifted to their children this holiday season.
Some technology can be connected to the internet, meaning children can communicate with strangers, without the knowledge of parents.
The AFP recommends parents and carers supervise young people when they are playing games, communicating or watching programs.
It is also important caregivers understand how technology their children are using works and connects online.
The AFP has charged 187 people with 1,966 alleged child abuse-related offences this year.*
Reports of online child sexual exploitation have spiked in 2020, with perpetrators taking advantage of COVID-19 lockdowns to access and share horrific content, as well as to target children and young people who were spending an increasing amount of time online.
Those arrested this year include members of an alleged domestic online network who are accused of sexually abusing children and sharing videos and images of their crimes.
As a result of investigations, there were 134 children removed from harm, 67 domestically and 67 internationally, from July 2019 to June 2020.
Parents are advised to supervise their children.
Offenders are typically more active during school holidays and will try to groom children or obtain online child sexual exploitation material.
The AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) is receiving reports of children interacting with offenders online while a parent or carer is nearby, or in the same room.
During recent search warrants, the AFP has found many images of self-produced child exploitation material, including material obtained by offenders who groomed and coerced children and young people to produce images.
Foreign law enforcement agencies are also seizing child exploitation material involving Australian victims.
Commander ACCCE and Child Protection Hilda Sirec said while the AFP was working tirelessly with our partners, around Australia and overseas to hunt down anyone who preyed on children, parents and carers needed to be engaged in their child’s online activities.
“We will never give up our fight to keep children safe and we are appealing for help from parents and carers. We know this is a busy time of year, but please talk to your children about who they interact with online and what platforms, apps and games they are using.”
“Supervision is not only critical to prevent an incident occurring, but can also help adults to quickly take action if something goes wrong,” Commander Sirec said.
“If your child is or has been a victim, reassure them that it’s not their fault and that there is help available - children and young people are never to blame for being a victim of online child sexual exploitation.”
TOP TIPS TO KEEP YOUR CHILD SAFE ONLINE
- Have open conversations, often. The most important tip we can give any parent or carer is to start talking to your child about their online activities.
- Supervision is essential. This means knowing what your children are doing online, who they are interacting with and what platforms, apps or games they are using.
- Check privacy settings. We recommend parents and carers research and understand app settings, including privacy settings. This could include turning off location settings, setting profiles to private, or turning off chat functions.
- Be approachable if your child needs help. Coming forward isn’t always easy and children may feel reluctant to tell you about online issues if they believe they will be punished or have their devices taken away. This can also make children more secretive and at greater risk of exploitation.
- Know how to report. If something goes wrong online, it is critical your child is supported. Parents and carers need to know how to take action.
- Consider establishing a Family Online Safety Contract. Developed by ThinkUKnow and The Carly Ryan Foundation, it has been designed to help parents and carers start online safety discussions with their children. A copy is available at org.au
How to report online child abuse
If you believe a child is in imminent danger, call police Triple Zero (000) or visit your local police station.
- If your child is experiencing issues online, it is essential to collect evidence - taking screenshots or photos of the content. Once you have collected your evidence, block and report on the app, site or platform where the issue occurred.
Online child sexual exploitation can be reported to the ACCCE at https://www.accce.gov.au/report or to call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.
If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available, visit to learn more www.accce.gov.au/support
Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protection children online can be found at ThinkUKnow, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation: www.thinkuknow.org.au
Note to media:
Use of term ‘CHILD ABUSE’ MATERIAL NOT ‘CHILD PORNOGRAPHY’
The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.
Use of the phrase "child pornography" is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:
- indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
- conjures images of children posing in 'provocative' positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.
Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.
*As at 20 December 2020.
AFP Media: (02) 5126 9297