PORTLAND, OR (KPTV) - As classes move from in-person to at-home on laptops, investigators are worried it could create a new opportunity for online predators.
“With everything being pretty much virtual now and so many things online and having more free time, we’re just seeing more of an increase of types of issues that crop up from being on the internet a lot,” Detective Chad Opitz with the Beaverton Police Department said.
Opitz said he’s concerned when school starts with online learning in the fall, it will happen even more.
“And that’s just tragic, because now a child that maybe would’ve been safe at school, and now you have them around an offender more,” Opitz said. “I think it’s a consequence that isn’t talked about nearly as much as it needs to be, with schools and decisions that are made.”
He said besides more time online, many districts are giving kids additional access to the online world by handing out hotspots and laptops for online learning.
“I know I’ve seen or heard of like, the Chromebooks, for example, that schools may have passed out last year, and maybe those schools haven’t collected those from last year and they just said, you know what, the returning kids, we’re just going to leave it with them,” Opitz said. “So, you’re just giving another device beside the phone.”
And while school-issued laptops usually have site blockers, Opitz said it’s the kid-friendly, not-so-obvious sites predators go to.
“And even prior to the COVID-19 issues and restrictions and shutdowns, there are many cases that I have personally worked involving things, devices like that, that were provided to the students and they’ll use to talk to people or maybe send pictures that they shouldn’t,” Opitz said.
Optiz encourages parents to keep paying close attention and talk openly with their kids.
“If you kind of shut them out or not in tune in what they’re doing and staying involved, they’re not going to come forward with much information unless you ask,” Opitz said. “And you can do that in a way to where it’s a positive experience for them, meaning they’re not going to be in trouble if they come to you with, 'hey mom or dad, this person on this site started talking to me.'”
Opitz said he also knows parents are tired right now, often working from home with their kids, and that can make it easier to let them have extra screen time. He encourages them to not relax on internet rules.
Copyright 2020 KPTV-KPDX Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.