U.S. Attorney’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations Remind Parents of Risks to Children Online

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations are partnering to alert parents and guardians of the potential dangers to children online, and providing guidance for internet safety.

As a result of school closings due to COVID-19, children are increasingly using online resources for schoolwork as well as entertainment. Due to increased access to and reliance on social media, chatting apps, gaming, and other internet-based platforms, children may be more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Now more than ever before, it is imperative that parents and guardians take steps to educate and protect children online.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations have partnered to develop an awareness campaign, “Think Before You Click,” to encourage parents and guardians to discuss internet safety with children of all ages and to monitor internet use. Included are tips for identifying potential victimization and resources to report concerns. The flyer was distributed to law enforcement officers and school leaders throughout the Commonwealth.

“Children are susceptible to online predators because they are often unaware of how dangerous online environments can be,” said United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling. “Children are at an even greater inadvertent risk now due to school closures and the prevalence of ongoing learning and leisure activities. Through “Think Before You Click,” we aim to make parents and guardians more cognizant of the dangers to children online, and arm them with tools to protect children’s privacy.”

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created an increase in online activity, whereby students are utilizing the internet and social media as a key source of education and entertainment. The marked increase in social media usage and lessened social interaction may create opportunity for predators to exploit our children. That being said, parental supervision, open discussions about internet safety, active monitoring, and smarter use of privacy settings will reduce the chance of victimization from child predators,” said Michael S. Shea, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Boston. “The inherent dangers presented by social media applications are evident. HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to take an aggressive, whole of government approach to identifying, disrupting, and dismantling those malicious organizations and actors who seek to prey upon our children.”

This effort was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. PSC marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. PSC also conducts education and outreach programs aimed at combating and preventing technology-facilitated crimes. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

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