The coronavirus is impacting society in all kinds of unexpected ways. Some parts of the country must deal with food shortages. Unemployment and underemployment are rampant.
Elsewhere, the virus is surging because people refuse to wear masks and socially distance themselves. This is due to the politicization of these practices.
Yet another unexpected occurrence is a rise in tips in LA County about online child sexual abuse. Let’s go over why that’s happening, and what parents can do to protect their children from this burgeoning epidemic.
What is Online Child Sexual Abuse?
Before we proceed, let’s explain what this term means, and how it happens. Online child sexual abuse:
- Occurs when an adult solicits sexually explicit pictures or videos of minors
- Sometimes takes place when an adult misidentifies themselves as being the same age as the child
In 2003, California passed a child sexual abuse law. Essentially, it stated that if institutions failed to protect minors from sexual predators, then those institutions could be held liable for their actions. This led to subsequent legal action against the Boy Scouts, churches, and many other organizations and entities.
The problem is that child sexual abusers are much harder to track down online. The worldwide web is full of places for predators to hide.
Why There is More Online Child Sexual Abuse Taking Place in Los Angeles
So, why is more child sex abuse taking place right now in LA County, and elsewhere, for that matter? The coronavirus is the answer.
- Have been out of school for months
- Are quite computer-savvy
- Have no compunctions about sending nudes of themselves
It’s the summer, which is a time when most of them wouldn’t be in school anyway. They’re bored, and often, their parents don’t have the time to monitor what they’re doing online. Their parents have to go to work, and children can be left unsupervised for hours at a time.
Once, the parents could have sent the children out to play. While they’re still doing that, to some extent, playtime has limitations because of social distancing and mask-wearing. Kids can’t interact with one another as freely as they normally could.
Other Reasons This is Going On
Yet another reason these disturbing reports are rising is that most summer camps have faced cancellation in light of the coronavirus. Those in charge have closed rec centers, sports leagues, and all manner of other activities in which the kids would usually engage.
If the parents have to work and leave the kids at home, they might put the older kids in charge. But the older kids likely don’t want to spend every moment monitoring what their younger siblings are doing.
The parents might get a babysitter, but the problem is the same. Is the sitter going to monitor the children every moment?
Ideally, they will, but if a child is occupying themselves on their computer, the average sitter isn’t going to go out of their way to check on what they’re doing.
What Are the Police Doing?
Los Angeles County police are doing what they can, but with the pandemic causing all kinds of other problems, they don’t have the resources to devote a large force to this problem. They have a backlog of tips, and they try to follow up on them.
At the same time, though, domestic violence is up, also because of the pandemic, and they have to devote resources to that. The Black Lives Matter movement has caused unrest, and that has also taken their attention away.
It’s difficult to think that online child sex abuse is falling through the cracks, and yet in some cases, that is precisely what is happening.
What Are Parents Doing?
It is usually a knowledge lack with the parents that allow their children to send nudes or videos to predators, rather than apathy. Virtually all parents would be very upset to know what their kids are doing.
With most parents, they wouldn’t think to talk to their kids about these sorts of things. Either that or they would assume that their child would know better than to send nudes or videos to individuals on the internet who they have never met before.
The best thing that parents can do is educate themselves about this problem and talk to their kids about it. The kids might feel embarrassed to have this sort of conversation with a parent, but it’s far better to speak to them about it than not to do so.
Child Brain Development
Some parents might feel like there’s no logical reason that a child would ever send nudes or videos, regardless of how old the recipient is. They might be forgetting that a child’s brain, particularly the part that deals with impulse control, is not fully developed yet. A child is not likely to think that their actions have consequences.
The child might also be doing what they are as a form of rebellion. When the parents were growing up, they might have acted out by sneaking beers from their parent’s fridge or smoking cigarettes behind the school.
The difference between sending nudes and videos and smoking a couple of cigarettes is that once that material is online, there’s no recovering it. Like-minded individuals will see those images and possibly trade them.
Parents who are having a tough time explaining to their child why they shouldn’t send naked pictures of themselves need to try and emphasize that point. The child’s image will be out there in cyberspace forever, even when they grow up, look for a job, start a family of their own, etc.
This problem is growing in LA County, and elsewhere as well. It is incumbent upon parents to talk to their kids about child sex abuse, and what it is.
Even if they’re talking to someone online who they know and who is their age, the parents need to drive home the point that they need to keep their clothes on.
Feature Photo by bongkarn thanyakij from Pexels