Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Provides Tips for Parents in Ensuring Online Security
PHOENIX (Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020) — The internet can be a great resource for children and young people — but it also can be a dangerous place where predators look for potential targets for sex trafficking.
Criminals use the internet to find young people through social media or dating platforms, and find ways to lure, coerce or extort them into dangerous situations that can take them away from home and family and place them squarely in harm’s way. Sex trafficking is one of the many reasons why it’s important for parents to keep an eye on the internet usage of their children.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is working with the community to provide tips and resources for families to ensure internet safety, to protect from everything from sex trafficking to cyberbullying to becoming victims of fraud.
“It’s alarming how much more crime we are seeing over time that originates on the internet in the form of something that looks fairly innocent,” said Allister Adel, Maricopa County Attorney. “It’s critical for parents and young people to remember that there are criminals out there looking for opportunities to trick people into falling into terrible situations. We’ve found that many sex trafficking situations result from victims being lured online.”
Common tactics for recruiting young people into sex trafficking include browsing their personal feeds to find individuals who show signs of depression or low self-esteem, then grooming those victims by appealing to them through compliments or other persuasion. Often, criminals make a promise of employment or a better life to those who are vulnerable. Once those young people agree to meet a criminal, they can be kidnapped or placed in a dependent situation by depriving them of money, communications tools or even promoting drug addiction.
The County Attorney’s Office, as part of its Keeping Families Safe initiative, offers a number of important tips to parents to help monitor their children’s online presence:
- Develop a family usage plan to promote healthy online use. Be specific, include duration, content, and location limits. Kids should limit their online usage to one hour a day.
- Learn what apps are currently being used by young people and if you agree to let your child use an app, make sure you know why they will be using the app.
- Avoid apps that are location-based, promote anonymity, allow random connections to strangers, and lack age monitoring, privacy settings or a report function.
- Take advantage of parental control apps and privacy settings. Set expectations with your child early on about what they can do online and what you will monitor.
- One of the best ways to monitor your child online is to follow or friend them on social media.
- Teach your child about privacy and what information and content should never be shared online.
- Emphasize the risks of sharing their name, address, school, phone number, and inappropriate photos online.
- Talk about scenarios your child might experience online, such as cyberbullying. Help them practice reporting, blocking, and asking for help if they encounter something that makes them feel scared, sad, or nervous.
- Contact local law enforcement and the CyberTipLine if your child receives inappropriate emails, texts, and instant messages.
“Parents are the ones on the front line when it comes to protecting their children, but law enforcement agencies such as the County Attorney’s Office and our partners in the Valley are here to help,” Adel said. “We encourage parents to be vigilant with their children’s online presence and to contact us if they see suspicious activity.”