Tennessee Bureau Urges Parents to Supervise Children Online

A United States state law enforcement agency has suggested that a huge spike in reports of online child sexual abuse could be linked to parents' letting their kids use the internet for long periods of time while unsupervised. 

A drastic increase in the number of reports of online crimes involving the sexual abuse of children has been seen by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) since the coronavirus health pandemic erupted. 

In March 2020, reports were up 210% year on year. By June, the number of tips being submitted had increased by 400%. 

Special Agent in Charge Nicholas Christian said that following the closure of schools to slow the spread of COVID-19, children had been exposed to the internet more in 2020 than in 2019. He said criminals were taking advantage of the situation to groom more victims.

"I wouldn’t say they’re different cyber tips, I would just say that they’re increasing the victim pool," Christian told News4Nashville. "So, there’s more kids online, and they’re online for a longer period of time."

Christian added that parents, suddenly faced with having children at home all day, could be making it easier for their kids to become victims of abuse by relying on "internet nannying."

Describing what the practice involves, Christian said: "Parents keeping their child in front of a tablet or computer just to keep them busy."

Christian added: "That’s not always the best approach because obviously the more screen time they have, the more opportunities they have to come into contact with someone who doesn’t have their best interests at heart."

The agent said going online without supervision was just as dangerous for a child as exploring the streets of New York City unaccompanied. Crime statistics for NYC in 2020 detail 327 murders, 679 shooting victims, 1,007 rapes, 9,075 robberies, and 14,761 felony assaults. 

Christian said that the TBI had not observed an increase in self-reporting from minors who had been persuaded to send sexually explicit images of themselves to an abuser or who had received such images.

"If you’re a victim of extortion, report them, block them, and call the police," he said.

Christian urged parents to research which applications their kids are using, to implement parental controls, and to manage their children's screentime.

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