by Sr. Margaret Anne Meyer Meyer MMM          U.S.A.       08.09.2022
group of childrenSometime ago, I wrote about my love for children and what I had learned from the United States Catholic Program for Safeguarding children, called VIRTUS.
Since then, I have been getting monthly updates and I would like to share some of that information with you.I can not believe that so many thousands of children are being groomed by predators though various platforms on the internet. Yet this is what VIRTUS tells us.
Since the onset of Covid 19, Children were out of school and spent more time online. Boys and girls as young as eleven years of age were becoming victims of CSAM, pronounced see-sam, and means child sexual abuse material. Older men were befriending these children and asking them to send selfies of naked or almost naked photos of themselves and then these photos are disseminated online so that the victimization continues in perpetuity. So many groups of dedicated people are trying to bring these predators to justice but there are not many laws in place to stop this.
What Virtus is trying to tell parents that if any of this is happening to their children, they can get help and report it to the police. There is even a Cyber Tip Line which can be found on the internet.
Everyone says “Not my child” but the number affected is going into the millions around the world. Here are somethings one can do.
Below are some tips from the Virtus online teaching which I found helpful:
Prevention Tips
There are actions that caring adults can take to help protect children and young people from online sexual exploitation:
• Have frequent conversations with the children and young people in your care regarding the risks, and the benefits, of online communication.
• When interacting with children and youth online, maintain safe and transparent communication.
• Monitor technology used by the children and youth in your care and install filtering software.
• Never allow a child or young person to meet in person with someone they have only "met" online, unless accompanied by a parent or safe adult.
• Be attentive to child and youth behavior, and any behavioral cues they may be exhibiting (such as sudden changes in behavior, extreme moodiness, secretiveness, or isolating from others) to illustrate that something is not right.
• Know who children and youth are communicating with using technology.
Remember that the social networking and online gaming landscape is constantly changing, and technology is rapidly evolving.  Adults cannot be complacent.  Caring adults, parents, teachers, and all of us who are charged with protecting children must continue our efforts to stay informed of the technology used both by minors and the child abusers who are seeking to manipulate and abuse our children.  By maintaining an important level of awareness, and communicating when you have a concern, you can help protect the children, youth and vulnerable in your community.
I hear many heart wrenching stories from the children who have been abused in this way and ask you to please pray that a solution will be found to assure our children are protected.

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