Online safety: safeguarding kids during the pandemic

May 7, 2020 BY

YMCA Australia's new poster which features tips on staying safe while spending time online.

YMCA Australia’s National Safeguarding Unit has developed a downloadable A3 poster with tips on how to protect children against online predators, as young people spend more time behind screens during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Y’s executive manager of safeguarding children and young people Phil Doorgachurn said it was up to adults to help supervise and monitor children when they’re surfing the web.

“Now more than ever, children need us. The whole world has changed.

“Adults are really struggling to come to terms with quarantine, but for children, particularly in terms of their development, it’s a big shift.

“I know from research and through working with ex-offenders that children will be targeted online.”

Mr Doorgachurn said with large-scale media organisations downsizing their employees as a result of COVID-19, security and privacy teams would be hard hit.

He cautioned this would allow for child sex offenders to outsmart firewalls and slip through the cracks.

“I use the analogy of being in the sea. You might be in the sea with a few sharks swimming around, but now you’ve got a number of sharks circling, and children and young people are in that sea.

“They’re spending longer online with more people targeting them, and there’s actually less safety. There’s less lifeguards on duty, there’s less flotation aids, which means they’re at increased risk. Adults need to be vigilant. Parents need to supervise and spend a bit more time online with their kids. It’s also a call to industry to step up their screening and protection of children.”

Mr Doorgachurn said it was important for children and young people to have a sense of normalcy in their lives during the crisis, and that this could be achieved through implementing routines. He said allocating a regular breakfast and time for family exercise and games were a good starting point.

“Children like boundaries. We’re suggesting parents go back to the things they can control.

“To all the parents, you’re doing an amazing job. Be kind to yourself at the moment. If you’re struggling, reach out; there are helplines.

“It’s okay if you can’t get everything done. Set your own parameters and boundaries. When the kids go to bed, reward yourself, because we’re probably going to forget about ourselves.”

To download the poster and access the Y’s resources, head to ymca.org.au.

If you, a child, young person or anyone you know is in immediate danger, phone Triple Zero (000) for help.