FBI: Online learning raises risks of sexual exploitation

Table of Contents

Dive Brief:

  • As novel coronavirus closures force more schools to wade into the world of online learning, the FBI is warning educators and families to beware of online sexual exploitation, and urges parents and educators to teach students about the risks and the signs. Children should also be taught about safety and boundaries and be encouraged to have open communication with parents and trusted adults.
  • Individuals may use online platforms to coerce youth into sharing explicit photos or videos of themselves under threats of sharing images with others. Offenders tend to make casual contact with children online to gain their trust and then introduce sexual conversation that increases.

  • The FBI says not only should internet safety should be discussed, but that adults should review apps and games before children download them. The agency recommends setting privacy settings to the strictest level and to monitor children’s Internet use. 

Dive Insight:

As schools transfer to online learning, educators must advise parents on how to recognize warning signs of online abuse. Schools can share information on apps such as securly.com that can be downloaded on devices to show educators and parents students’ online activity. The app detects threats like inappropriate sexual messaging or content viewing, cyberbullying and self-harm.

The White Hatter organization provides resources and consulting for students, educators and parents about online safety protocols. In addition to presenting at school assemblies, its site has resources on what to watch for including translations of shorthand lingo and dating apps that work inside popular apps like Snapchat.

White Hatter also informs parents and educators about the latest workarounds students use to hide illicit material. Vault apps, which require passwords, and decoy apps, which have icons that appear innocent, such as a calculator, are used to hide content. White Hatter provides a step-by-step explanation on how to find these secret apps on children’s phones, a task some parents find daunting.

As more schools adopt the Zoom meeting platform, educators and others must lock all the links. This week, hackers posted lewd and racist content during a meeting with board members, students and parents of the Conejo Valley Unified School District in California. Hackers use this “Zoombombing” tactic to logs onto a publicly shared Zoom link to post inappropriate information.

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