26 September 2023

New AFP guide keeps children safe online

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Parents and carers buying technology for children this festive season are being encouraged to familiarise themselves with the Australian Federal Police’s (AFP) new online safety guide and help keep the kids safe online.

Developed by the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) and the AFP’s ThinkUKnow program, the Gaming, Devices and What You Need to Know safety guide has been designed to provide easy steps to help protect children online.

Commander with ACCCE and Human Exploitation for the AFP, Hilda Sirec said technology gifts were on many children’s Christmas wish lists this year.

“This Guide has been launched to help parents and carers minimise the risk of inappropriate contact and online child sexual exploitation on popular devices,” Commander Sirec said.

“One of the best gifts parents and carers can give children is safety and protection,” she said.

“Don’t give an offender the chance to connect with your child this holiday season.”

Commander Sirec said many popular devices had safety features that parents and carers could use to help minimise the risk of inappropriate contact.

She said strategies included checking privacy settings on devices and turning off location settings; setting profiles to private; and turning off chat functions.

“This is a busy time for parents and carers, however, it’s important to be aware of how your children will use these devices – especially ones that connect to the internet.”

Commander Sirec said even if parents or carers were not buying tech for their children this Christmas, the new Safety Guide could still be used for the devices already in the homes.

“Can I implore everyone to implement parental controls on devices and talk to children about how to build safe online habits,’” she said.

“Just as you would ask your child about their day, ask them what apps, social media and games they are using online, and use our resource to explore and navigate their features.”

She reminded parents and carers that a direct message or chat function could allow anyone to make contact with their child and the most important thing people could do to protect children was to supervise them while they were online by encouraging screen time in shared areas of the home.

Commander Sirec said this was a critical factor in preventing self-produced child abuse material and online grooming.

She said the ACCCE Child Protection Triage Unit (CPTU) usually experienced spikes in reporting of online child exploitation incidents after holiday periods and, last financial year, the CPTU received more than 22,000 reports.

“Parents can keep their children safe by having open conversations about online safety from an early age and continuing this dialogue throughout all stages of development,” she said.

“Be approachable if your child needs help.

“Coming forward isn’t always easy and children may feel reluctant to tell you about online issues if they believe they will be punished, or have their devices taken away,” Commander Sirec said.

The ACCCE’s 12-page Safety Guide can be downloaded at this PS News link.

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