It Takes a Village

September 4, 2020

By Jill Whitmyer

It Takes a Village
By Haven Evans

Project Protect, a five-step plan to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA) launched by the Technology Coalition, recently gained the support of some of the world’s largest tech companies such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft.

This project aims to incorporate a “strategic five pillar plan”: tech innovation, collective action, independent research, knowledge & information sharing, and transparency & accountability. Establishing a multi-million dollar research and innovation fund is also one of the coalition’s main goals. Additionally, the group intends on hosting an annual forum with governments, law enforcement and other stakeholders to discuss ways to fight CSEA.

Support from the world’s leading technology companies is a major step in the right direction for the project and we as an organization applaud this move by the tech giants. The companies are expected to invest millions of dollars into research, innovation, and issue reports on how the progress on fighting online child sexual exploitation and abuse is going. Combating child abuse is truly a community effort and takes participation from individuals, organizations, corporations, and government entities.

Here at the Pa Family Support Alliance, we are dedicated to providing education, support, and training programs to make Pennsylvania safe for children. We want every single child in the Commonwealth to grow and thrive free in an environment that is free from abuse and neglect. We do know social media and the internet usage can pose real and dangerous threats to children and they can often be faced with issues like the invasion of privacy, bullying, harassment, abuse, and exploitation. Below are a few tips on how to keep your kids safe online:

• Speak to them: Parents and caregivers should make sure that their children and grandchildren know they have a voice. If anyone is making them feel uncomfortable—no matter who it is—they should come to them.
• Educate them: One of the easiest ways to ensure your child stays safe online is to educate them on the dangers of the internet. Warn against dangerous websites, sex offenders, malware, phishing, and explain how to utilize privacy settings (if they are old enough to do so).
• Limit online usage: Give your child a certain amount of time for technology use, implementing this practice will lower the likelihood of contact with a predator and also promotes healthy usage habits.
• Use parental control software. Parental control apps will allow you to monitor your child’s internet usage, visited websites, time spent online and even enable you to block certain websites you deem unsafe. You should check your children’s internet browsing history and see what websites they are visiting.
• Report it: If anyone sends inappropriate messages or explicit information to your children online, you should report them to your local law enforcement.

In a world that’s moving increasingly online, it is vital that we take steps to ensure our children are protected and that truly does take a village. We are glad to see that large tech corporations are mirroring that dedication towards safety and look forward to the breakthroughs Project Protect will make in combating online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Haven Evans has been the Director of Training at the Pa Family Support Alliance since 2016. She has extensive experience and knowledge of Pennsylvania’s Child Protective Services Law. Prior to her role at the Pa Family Support Alliance, Haven was a ChildLine supervisor and a ChildLine Manager. There she was responsible for managing the state’s 24/7 intake unit that responds to a large volume and variety of calls regarding the care of children, particularly reports of suspected child abuse or neglect.

CNET: Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft back effort to stop child abuse online
The tech giants get behind a five-step plan called Project Protect.
Alexandra Garrett

Tech giants including Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft are supporting a five-step plan from the Technology Coalition that aims to end online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

The Technology Coalition, which was founded in 2006 and counts these companies among its members, provides funding and advice to the tech industry on online safety tools for children.

“The world has changed since we first came together in 2006,” the coalition said in a release Thursday. “Technology is more advanced, and there has been an explosion of new internet services, including mobile and online video streaming.”

The plan, called Project Protect, includes five pillars of action, according to the coalition. The actions include investing in new technology aimed at ending child abuse, holding annual government forums, funding independent research, creating new ways of sharing information, and increasing accountability.

“Project Protect brings together the brightest minds from across the tech industry to tackle a grave issue that no one company can solve on its own — child exploitation and abuse,” said Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg in a release.

The tech giants said they’ll invest millions of dollars into research and innovation and publish annual reports on the coalition’s progress.

Helpful Tips for Your Family’s Mental Health and Well-Being
By: Haven Evans

As we welcome July and the summer weather, we’re reminded of how our lives have drastically changed in so many ways in a matter of a few months as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly 40 million Americans have lost their jobs, food insecurity is a real concern for many, parents are homeschooling their kids, many business are struggling. The days of just spontaneously getting in your car and taking your kids to the movies or an amusement park are on hold. The lack of interaction and physical contact with your loved ones, friends, and colleagues due to social distancing may at times for many, be too much to manage.

Additionally, more than 134,000 Americans have tragically passed away due to the coronavirus and that is a stark and startling number. It’s hard to process and comprehend that in just a matter of three months many of our fellow citizens have passed way. Experts are estimating that 1 in every 7 Americans knows someone who has passed away as a result of COVID-19. If you have lost a loved one our friend as a result of this virus, please know that our heartfelt thoughts and sympathies are with you. And, even if you have not lost anyone to this virus, you’re still being inundated with information and stories splashed on the news about COVID that can be overwhelming to process, especially for individuals who may be navigating anxiety or depression.

The mental health and well-being of yourself and your family is incredibly important. There are a number of things that you can do to look after yourself, your family, and help others in your life who may need extra support and care right now.

Stay Informed: Listen to advice and recommendations from your national, state, and local authorities and medical personnel.

Minimize the News: Limit the intake of how much you watch or read. While the job of the news media is to keep the public informed, due to 24/7 cable news, you could find yourself glued to the television or computer watching stories on COVID. This can cause you to feel anxious or distressed, so limit your intake to.

Stay in contact with family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors: Just because we are all practicing social distancing, does not mean that you still can’t be social. Pick up the phone and call a friend, or FaceTime a loved one. It’s important to stay connected.

Find Free, Safe Family-Friendly Activities: Design a scavenger hunt in your own home, watch a funny movie, try out a new recipe, plant some flowers, have a Zoom meeting or FaceTime your family members and friendly, and take a walk around your neighborhood.

Make sure your children have time away from their computers, television, iPads, and cell phones: It’s important for children to have time to play outdoors, draw a picture, play with Legos and dolls, sing, dance, or build something. They need time, especially right now, to just have fun.

Reach Out for Support: Here at PFSA, we are firm believers that where there is help, there is hope. So please, never be afraid to ask for help if you or a loved has a mental health concern or needs to talk to someone. There are trained, clinical therapists and counselors in your area who can help you navigate the challenge you may be facing. For support and referral help, you can call PA’s mental health helpline at 855-284-2494.