Services for sexual assault survivors in Maryland are available during the COVID-19 crisis. Local rape crisis centers, SALI, and MCASA are available to provide direct services. Learn more

Protect While They Connect

If you are staying home more often with your family, you and your children are likely spending increased time online. While online spaces can be an excellent way to stay educated, entertained, and socially connected, there is a risk that your child may encounter uncomfortable or high-risk predatory situations. 

You can take simple steps to help your child safe while using online platforms

  • Tell your child that just like you need to keep them safe in real life, you need to keep them safe online. Talk about things that are ok, like playing games or talking to friends they know in real life, and things that are never ok, like talking to people they’ve never met, sharing private information, or sharing photos. Explain how people online may not be who they say they are, and that anything shared online, like photos or private information, can be made public. 
  • Ask them what online platforms they use: consider social media, gaming apps like Roblox or Minecraft online, text and video platforms like Discord, Twitch, etc.  Educate yourself on the privacy settings available on these platforms. Work with your child or teen to make sure they:
    • Regularly review all privacy settings;
    • Adjust their settings so locations cannot be identified;
    • Can block anyone that makes them feel uncomfortable; and
    • Know where to seek help.
  • Understand the risks that children and teens may face online and stay alert to signs of distress linked with online activity. Stay engaged in what your child is doing online; have computers placed in a central location, check in on their social media accounts, ask questions, etc. 
  • Avoid making your safety interventions seem like punishments. If your child thinks you may take away or heavily restrict their games or online activities, they may become more secretive about their activities and less likely to come to you with issues. 
  • Make sure your child knows that when you have conversations about safety or set rules and boundaries, it does not mean that that they did anything wrong or that they are in trouble. Let them know that if they are ever in an uncomfortable situation or if someone online is acting strangely, that they can and should come to you right away without fear of punishment.  

Legal Protections

Some acts of cyber exploitation may constitute a crime under Maryland or Federal law, and some acts of exploitation may create civil legal liability for the perpetrator. Legal options for fighting cyber exploitation may include: a civil suit for damages or to enjoin (stop) someone from doing something, filing for a protective order to prevent contact from the perpetrator, or filing criminal charges against the perpetrator if their actions constitute a crime. 

If you believe you or your child has been the victim of a crime, or you believe you have grounds for a civil lawsuit, you may want to consult with an attorney. Call the Sexual Assault Legal Institute (SALI) at (301) 565-2277 to be connected with an attorney who can explain your legal options.

If you would like to arrange a training on online safety for your group or organization, please fill out our training request form here

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