WASHINGTON, D.C., W.Va (WDTV) – The FBI is reporting an increase in child exploitation crimes during the pandemic.
The surge comes as children are spending more time learning virtually and predators working from home have more time to lurk on the web.
Scott Argiro is the assistant special agent in charge of the Pittsburgh field office of the FBI.
“Cases have increased as COVID has restricted people’s travel and put more people online and put more people at home,” Argiro said. “Child predators are finding more time not being at work and finding more time in front of the computer.”
He says parents are one of the best defenses against child predators. To protect them, he suggests parents should pay attention to apps on their child’s phone, engage with them and be on the lookout for sudden behavior changes.
“Children become more secretive, they become withdrawn, they’re going to turn away from you when they’re on their device,” Argiro said. “They’re going to spend more time in their room or even just kind of hiding in a closet. You’re not going to know where they are, you’re going to catch them, and they’re going to be startled. So those are behaviors to look out for when there is suspicious online activity.”
But oftentimes, kids are more tech-savvy than their parents.
Argiro says parents have to walk a fine line between giving children their privacy while also watching out for them, especially teens.
“It is a bit invasive to a child, but as a parent, you’re obligated to do that.”
At the end of the day, he says it comes down to trust.
“Children need to earn the respect to use their online activity and their cellphones and computer devices,” Argiro said. “As they earn that and become more trusted by the parent, you can give them a little bit more leeway.”
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