CAPS, the oldest child abuse prevention organisation in Australia, has consistently advocated for the safety of children. Our goal is to spread awareness about the dangers that children can face, and aid parents and educators in preventing harmful situations.
For this reason, we feel it is important that parents and educators are aware of the impacts that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on our most vulnerable. The pandemic and subsequent shutdowns have led to an increase in child protection concerns on several fronts. With the uptick in time spent at home and with family, as well as added stress factors such as job loss and lack of childcare, the shutdowns have raised risk factors for at home abuse.
We know that most abuse is committed by people that are known to a child, and 30-40% of abusers are immediate or extended family members. In addition, childcare workers and teachers who usually play a critical role in reporting abuse, are now having less access to children under their care. The combination of stressors, such as loss of jobs and lack of childcare, increased time away from schools and centres, and loss of teachers as reporters, has unfortunately led to a pandemic-fuelled increase in child abuse and domestic violence.
Another alarming development during the COVID-19 pandemic is the creation and sharing of child sexual abuse material online, which has significantly spiked. Australian Federal Police data reveals that the amount of child abuse material shared between February and March of this year was double the levels seen in 2019. As children and teens are spending increasing amounts of time on the internet unsupervised, reports of grooming by online predators have also increased.
Unfortunately, this child abuse crisis will not go away once we have a vaccine for the coronavirus. It will not automatically be fixed when things “return to normal.” The trauma of child abuse can be a lifetime battle. However, there are things that we can do to prevent and mitigate these concerns. Monitoring a child’s activity online and knowing how to recognise the warning signs of grooming and abuse is critical to keeping our most vulnerable safe.
For more information on how to keep children or students safe online, check out our article here.