Lockdown ‘increasing grooming risk of children online’

Lockdown ‘increasing grooming risk of children online’

The increased screen time and isolation due to quarantine measures or restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic have put vulnerable minors at greater risk of grooming and abuse online, a Jesuit safeguarding expert said.

Almost every nation that has had lockdowns or other restrictions has had similar consequences in which young people are spending a lot more time at home, “alone, online with no supervision or being checked on”, said Jesuit Fr Hans Zollner, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors.

With increased screen time and so many options available for interacting online with others, “pornographic material also becomes more accessible” to predators and to children who have no limits on what they can access and no guidance on what they should do to protect themselves from people contacting them online, he said.

“We have to educate about protecting the dignity and respect of vulnerable people, especially young people.”

Fr Zollner is also a professor of psychology and president of the Centre for Child Protection at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.