ICE HSI Shares Tools To Keep Children Safe Online
WASHINGTON — Across the country, children have shifted to virtual learning which results in significantly more time spent online. In order to protect them, the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit at U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) reminds families that the agency has a variety of tools available on its iGuardian webpage to keep children safe while using the internet.
“Currently, thousands of children around the world are experiencing a new form of education with greater internet usage, as the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted traditional classroom settings to virtual instruction. Increased presence online means children are at an even greater risk of encountering cyber predators who know how to exploit their vulnerabilities,” said Matt Wright, chief of HSI’s Child Exploitation Investigations Unit. “Families are being told to stay home, and many children will spend even more time using social media, gaming platforms and other online applications than usual. Now is as good a time as any to ensure kids and parents are practicing online safety and know how to identify potential threats.”
Project iGuardian is focused on keeping children and teens safe from online predators through education and awareness. The project is an outreach effort to share information about the dangers of online environments, how to stay safe online, and how to report abuse and suspicious activity. In addition, the iGuardian team helps children stay safe online by providing safety tips, a number to call, and a website with links to more information and resources. Project iGuardian helps children, teens and parents be smarter about online safety and stay safe from online sexual predators.
Parents and guardians can also help educate and protect children online by doing the following:
- Review and approve games and apps before they are downloaded.
- Make sure privacy settings are set to the strictest level possible for online gaming systems and electronic devices.
- Monitor your children’s use of the internet; keep electronic devices in an open, common room of the house.
- Check your children’s profiles and what they post online.
- Explain to your children that images posted online will be permanently on the internet.
- Make sure children know that anyone who asks a child to engage in sexually explicit activity online should be reported to a parent, guardian, or other trusted adult, as well as law enforcement.
The Child Exploitation Investigations Unit maintains a close working relationship with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the fight against child exploitation. Its partners at NCMEC have created the NetSmartz educational outreach program which features information and resources tailored specifically to youth age groups and adults.
In fiscal year 2019, the number of children rescued and/or identified from instances of child exploitation grew to 1,069, compared to 859 the year prior. HSI also saw increases in the number of cases initiated, indictments and convictions during the last fiscal year. Since 2013, HSI has rescued and/or identified over 6,500 child victims, thanks in part to initiatives like Project iGuardian.
To report suspicious activity or instances of child sexual exploitation, contact your local law enforcement agency. Tips can be submitted online at https://www.ice.gov/tipline, by phone at 866-DHS-2-ICE or by contacting your local HSI office. Reports can also be filed with NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST or online at www.cybertipline.org.