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Online child sex abuse reports surge as kids spend more time on computers amid coronavirus

Kevin Rector, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Abrams said that sexual exploitation can cause stress and suicidal feelings in kids, and make it more difficult to focus or stick to normal sleeping patterns. However, huge disruptions to routine -- which many kids have experienced recently -- can lead to similar behavior or thoughts.

Instead of waiting for signs of a problem, parents should make a point of talking to their kids about who it is they are chatting with online and how they know them, and of checking their browser histories, Abrams said.

Kozakiewicz's abduction at the age of 13 in 2002 by a man who had groomed her online was the first such internet case to gain widespread attention. At the time, there was no monitoring or reporting of such cyberactivity.

In part because of that, she views the latest figures in a dual light, she said.

"Those numbers are horrifying, but at least we are aware," she said. "Child abuse thrives in secrecy, it thrives in anonymity, it thrives in being unknown."

Kozakiewicz said parents and guardians should make it clear to their kids that they can come to them with concerns about things that happen in their online worlds, regardless of whether mom and dad seem stressed out at this time themselves, and without having to fear punishment -- like having their devices taken away.

 

If parents broach the topic first, she said, kids will feel empowered to speak up for themselves.

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