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The talk to have with your children during lock down

The lack of clarity around when schools will re-open is not very comforting, this is because we were suddenly thrust into several roles – working from home, mother, father, friend, hairstylist, resident chef, makeshift IT guy, spiritual guide, gardener, teacher (should we continue!). Now we need to add cyber police to that list! This is because according to UNICEF more than 1.5 billion children have been affected by the lockdown worldwide. A large majority of those children have had to move into online learning or unsupervised screen time to keep up with schoolwork or connect with friends. This means now more than ever children are at risk of online sexual exploitation by cyber predators.

Like everyone online, we are all susceptible to phishing, pharming, malware, track bots, hacking however, according to Kaspersky there are 7 key dangers that parents need to know. Most importantly these are conversations parents need to have with their children. If you thought the birds and the bee’s conversation was tough, try talking about online sexual exploitation.

First, let us address the reason why a lot of 12 – 15year olds go missing – cyber predators. Cyber predators are smooth talkers. They stalk our children on various social media platforms and games using fake pictures or videos, then they lure them into connecting or engaging as if that is not enough they take advantage of our children’s innocence or imagination by making suggestive sexual requests. “I want to get to know you better – send me a picture of your naked self”. These pictures are then auctioned off and in worse cases, these pictures are used to place your child “for sale”.

Cyber bullies, just like cyber predator’s creep into your children’s emotions, build a house and stay there. Collecting pictures of children, cyber bullies who are both young and old will use these to embarrass your children which leads to severe social exclusion, depression and in worse cases suicide. No matter how tempting it may be, advise your children to be cautious about what they share or post online. The internet does not have a “delete button”.

Now is probably a good time to to “follow” your children. Apart from that its important that while you have conversations around health and well being that we also address issues of how to remain safe while online. While our roles have increased during this time, it is very crucial to remain connected with your children. Know who they are talking to online, make sure they don’t share or post personal information like intimate pictures or residential addresses.

Like the warning, you give your children when they are out with friends, the same applies when they are online – do not talk to online strangers!

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