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JOINT MEDIA RELEASE: Keeping children safe in the online playground

Sunday, 05 September 2021 07:12:58 AM

New research commissioned by NSW Crime Stoppers has found many parents do not believe or believe it’s unlikely that their child is at risk of being contacted by a stranger online.

The survey*, conducted with over 1,000 parents across Australia, looked at the attitudes and behaviours of parents regarding their child’s online activity. While over 93% of parents were concerned about a stranger approaching their child online, the study found 16.7% of parents thought their child was not at risk at all of being contacted by a stranger online and a further 26.5% thought it was unlikely.

In the lead up to National Child Protection Week run by NAPCAN, NSW Crime Stoppers has once again partnered with the eSafety Commissioner to firmly focus on promoting awareness of the dangers of the online playground and how to create a safer environment for children.

During 2020, the eSafety Commissioner’s (eSafety) Cyber Report team received 21,000 public reports, the majority of which involved child sexual abuse material. This was the most in the scheme’s 20-year history and a 90 per cent increase compared to 2019.

“Unwanted contact, grooming and child sexual abuse online continues to be a devastating issue, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains CEO, NSW Crime Stoppers, Mr Peter Price AM.

“Many parents would not leave their child alone in a playground and we want parents to think the same about the online playground. The internet is not ‘fenced off’ like in a community playground and even with parental controls, sexual predators can still find ways to connect with children online. Until we can build a safe online playground for our children, we just ask parents to be vigilant around their child’s online activity and report anything you see, hear or suspect,” added Mr Price.

eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, says that while they have seen big increases across all their reporting areas, parents should be aware, not alarmed.

“We’ve all turned to the internet during this pandemic to help us continue to work, learn, communicate and be entertained but with all this extra time we are spending online, often unsupervised, the risk that something can go wrong increases too,” said Ms Inman Grant.

“Parents and guardians have a role to play in keeping children safe online and we encourage parents and guardians to be actively involved in their children’s online lives. This can include ensuring children use devices in open areas of the home, talking regularly with children about the potential dangers online and helping them build the critical reasoning skills they need to make good decisions.”

The NSW Police Force (NSWPF) acknowledges the importance of National Child Protection Week and continues to support this initiative by not only bringing awareness to child protection, but also by encouraging children, young people, and their families to reach out for help if they need assistance, especially during this current pandemic.

“We acknowledge it has been another difficult year for children, families and communities dealing with COVID-19 and being isolated can leave many of our children more susceptible and vulnerable to victimisation. Children are spending more time online and this can place them at a higher risk of being targeted by online predators; and some may also be subjected to domestic and family violence or feel vulnerable in terms of mental health,” NSWPF Youth Sponsor, Assistant Commissioner Gelina Talbot said.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure children and young people in the community are safe, protected and supported, and are able to succeed in life without fear of harm and exploitation. This week provides us with an opportunity to highlight the issues children face and collaborate with others to enhance our response to keeping families and children safe and supported.”

Crime Stoppers, in conjunction with eSafety, has developed a Fact Sheet which has information on a range of prevention strategies to help keep children safe online. This can be downloaded at www.nsw.crimestoppers.com.au or for information and tips on how to keep your child safe online to go esafety.gov.au/parents

Protect your child’s privacy: esafety.gov.au/parents/skills-advice/privacy-child

Find reporting links for social media services, games and apps: esafety.gov.au/esafety-guide

Protect your child from unwanted contact: esafety.gov.au/parents/big-issues/unwanted-contact

Child sexual abuse material can be reported anonymously to the eSafety Commissioner at www.esafety.gov.au/reportillegalcontent

If you know or suspect someone is producing, downloading, or sharing child sexual abuse material you can make a confidential report to Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or at www.nsw.crimestoppers.com.au

If you have seen inappropriate behaviour towards child online, including online grooming and unwanted contact, please make a report to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) at www.accce.gov.au/report. There is no information too small or insignificant to report.

In an emergency, always call Triple Zero (000).