ONLINE SAFETY:  An increasing number of Australian children are being coerced into taking sexually explicit videos or images of themselves by predators online.
ONLINE SAFETY: An increasing number of Australian children are being coerced into taking sexually explicit videos or images of themselves by predators online. ThinkStock

Protect your grandkids! Tips to keep them safe online

AS technology has permeated our lives and those of our children and grandchildren, an insidious reality has arisen - strangers can now chat online to our children, right under our noses.

While there are many great educational and fun apps out there, a lot of them also have chat functions, which can open up the virtual door to predators engaging with our children.

Sadly, an increasing number of Australian children are being coerced into taking sexually explicit videos or images of themselves by predators online.

Over the past few years our online investigations team has seen a rise in cases containing self-generated child sexual abuse content.

Tragically, this is coming from children as young as 3 or 4, whose innocence and naiveté are literally being snatched away.

With all of the benefits the internet brings, the dangerous consequences of handing over an internet-connected, camera-enabled device to a child in our care cannot be ignored.

It is important that if you give a child a tablet or smartphone, you lay down the ground rules and stay engaged in their online lives. Educate them about how to use technology safely and set firm boundaries around that use inside and outside of the home.

The following guidance can help you reduce the risk of your grandchild being exploited online -

  • Get engaged in your grandchild's digital playground - know what sites they're on, what apps they're using and who their 'friends' are online;
  • Teach your grandchild how to recognise stranger danger online, just as you would in the real world;
  • Use parental control tools;
  • Set safe search settings;
  • Disable your webcam through computer/laptop settings;
  • Disable access to smartphone cameras within apps, and;
  • Ensure your grandchild uses internet-connected devices in common areas of the home.

While prevention is paramount, it's also worth knowing the signs that indicate your grandchild is being groomed online. Some red flags in your grandchild's behaviour can include -

  • Being very secretive, especially when it comes to their online activity;
  • Engaging with older friends, including boyfriends or girlfriends;
  • Appearing withdrawn, anxious or depressed;
  • Sleeping problems, including nightmares and bed wetting;
  • Missing school, and;
  • A change in eating habits or the development of an eating disorder.

Parents and grandparents are our children's first line of defence against risks they can be exposed to online, and the eSafety Office is here to assist you at esafety.gov.au.

Together, we can protect the innocence of our children, online and offline.


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