Police across the country are reminding parents and carers to have open age-appropriate conversations with their children about online safety, and to educate themselves about the potential risks to children online as part of National Child Protection Week.
The aim of National Child Protection Week, running from September 3 to 9 2023, is to bring together partner agencies and organisations to focus on and promote creating safe and supportive environments for all children in Australia.
Authorities are encouraging parents and carers to reflect on this year’s theme of ‘Where we start matters’, and start a conversation about being safe online from an early age.
Chair of Operation Griffin, the national coordination group of law enforcement agencies working to protect children from online exploitation, NSW Police Force Sex Crimes Squad Commander, Detective Superintendent Jayne Doherty APM, said there are several resources available to educate parents and carers about the dangers online.
“The level of exposure our children have online is greater than ever before and continues to increase, we know more children are spending longer on devices and on the internet,” she said.
“Some children have access to apps and technology from before they are in school, and it’s from this young age that we can all start introducing sensible online lessons. Online predators can target our most vulnerable, start asking your children about what websites they visit regularly, or which online game forums they are entering and actively monitor their online presence.”
Doherty is also encouraging parents and carers to be alert to their own online behaviours, which could be inadvertently putting their children at risk.
“What we share online contributes to our digital footprint, which includes any imagery we publish of our children. Online predators can exploit what may seem like the simplest of images of our children for their own benefit,” she said.
eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said parents and carers need to be conscious of their critical role in modelling how to be respectful, savvy, safe online users.
“The smart phones of today are so much more than a communications device. They’re supercomputers in our pockets that can supercharge a child’s opportunities to learn, create and connect,” she said.
“While in-app and device parental controls are important tools to monitor and limit what a child can see and do online, they cannot replace the crucial role of parents and carers when it comes to the online safety of children.
“We want anyone caring for children to have regular conversations with them about what they’re doing online and who they’re talking to. Particularly during the younger years, know who your child is connected to, including through online games.
“Ensure devices are used in open areas of the home, rather than in the privacy of the bathroom or bedroom, and make time to co-view and play the online games they love to play.”
The AFP and the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) work with domestic and international partners to address this crime.
AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Human Exploitation Kurt Wesche said the AFP is proud to work alongside our state and territory partners, as well as being the conduit to international law enforcement.
“It is critical that we share intelligence and collaborate locally, nationally and internationally in the fight against online child sexual abuse,” he said.
AUSTRAC National Manager Law Enforcement and Industry, Jon Brewer, said financial intelligence is central to identifying child sexual exploitation and enabling law enforcement to disrupt child abuse despite evolving criminal methods.
“As Australia’s Financial Intelligence Unit, AUSTRAC is uniquely placed to identify transactions linked to child sexual exploitation, as the payments enable the abuse to take place,” Brewer said.
“Financial intelligence enables offenders to be detected in new ways reaching beyond traditional borders to identify offenders travelling to commit abuse, as well as those sitting in their homes accessing live-streamed child sexual abuse, who would not otherwise be caught.
“AUSTRAC’s Fintel Alliance has developed a guide to combat sexual exploitation of children for financial gain, to help industry partners identify and report potentially suspicious payments.”
For more information about National Child Protection Week, visit www.napcan.org.au/ncpw.