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Coronavirus-Induced Increased Screen Time For Kids Gives Way to Rise in Online Exploitation, Experts Say

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The internet has been an invaluable tool for kids to continue learning and stay occupied while home in the wake of the coronavirus.

But with the increase in screen time, child welfare advocates are reminding parents to stay vigilant about monitoring their kids' virtual activities. Their warning comes as reports of online exploitation among children spikes, authorities said.

The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC) said they collect weekly, unpublished data from law enforcement and tech companies in countries all over the world. 

Every week in March so far, the center has seen an increase in reports of child sexual abuse material spotted online, as well as an increase in online grooming activity, compared to the same period last year, according to Interim Chief Executive Officer Bob Cunningham.

“If your kids are home and they’re online, it’s important to monitor them more closely,” Cunningham told InsideEdition.com. 

One red flag to look out for is what Cunningham calls “unexpected incentives” in video games and social media, including payments or gifts. These activities may signal that an individual is engaging in online grooming. There has also been an increase in reports of unsolicited materials sent to children, which is another red flag. 

For more information, visit ICMEC's page about online safety education.

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