Lauren’s Kids, a foundation offering aid to survivors of childhood sexual abuse, is looking to help parents avoid potential online predators as students around the state begin relying on digital learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sen. Lauren Book — herself a survivor of child sexual abuse — began Lauren’s Kids prior to her time in the Legislature. The foundation is looking to provide resources to parents following a Monday warning from the FBI that at-home learning can increase the chance of contact with an online predator.
Earlier this month, Florida shut down public K-12 schools to help increase social distancing efforts to stop the spread of the virus. In turn, school districts have begun shifting to remote instruction plans until school campuses are able to reopen.
That can require students to use computers to access online learning centers. The more time spent online, the more chance of speaking to someone they are not supposed too.
“We know that 1 in 5 children who touch a digital device will be sexually solicited online,” Book said.
“Those who seek to abuse and exploit children online frequent the very same apps, games and social media sites as their intended victims — gaining trust, then exploiting it.”
Book’s group is now stepping in to help give some pointers to parents. Lauren’s Kids has a tip sheet for parents regarding their children’s internet use. That includes a parent setting themselves up as an administrator and limiting access to certain websites, as well a screening the installation of apps so that you can review their capabilities.
The foundation also provides a “Family Safety Activity Pack” aimed at helping to teach children to talk about potential trauma. Children can sometimes be uncomfortable disclosing dangerous contacts to their parents.
“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,” the FBI explained in its Monday news release.
“The embarrassment of being enticed and/or coerced to engage in unwanted behavior is what often prevents children from coming forward.”
The organization is also offering a roundup of news related to the COVID-19 virus as parents seek to navigate this current period of disruption.
“It is critical for parents to be educated about these dangers, and what they can do to reduce the risk to their child,” Book added.