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Constant communication with children advised

Reduce risk: Debi Ray-Rivers (File photograph)

Parents and guardians were asked to keep talking to children to limit the risk of child sex abuse over the shelter-in-place lockdown.Saving Children and Revealing Secrets warned it feared that isolation procedures created an environment where attacks on minors could be carried out.Debi Ray-Rivers, the charity’s founder and executive director, explained at the weekend: “With April being National Child Abuse Prevention Month, more than ever, it’s important to keep this topic of prevention at the forefront of our minds. “The impact of Covid-19 is being felt across the island and with Bermuda declaring a state of emergency in the form of a mandatory 14-day lockdown, we must not forget that research indicates that child sexual abuse can thrive in isolation and we must take precautions during this time to reduce risk.”Scars, a child sexual abuse prevention charity, also asked families to set and stick to online safety rules.Ms Ray-Rivers said: “Child sex offenders are just one click away from some of our most popular sites and apps. “Cybertips.bm provides great information and helpful resources on how to keep your child safe from online predators.”She said the UK’s Sky News had warned that thousands of online paedophiles had tried to prey on children during countrywide lockdowns.Ms Ray-Rivers added: “Also, there are serious detrimental effects of pornography on children. Continue communicating to children that everything they do online is public and permanent.She appealed: “Parents, please ensure that your children are safe online.”Ms Ray-Rivers said: “We encourage parents and caregivers to keep lines of communication open and send children a clear message that they can share with you their fears and concerns about others, without judgment, anger or retribution. “They should be allowed and encouraged to tell you anything about anyone who makes them feel uncomfortable. “Child sexual abuse thrives in an environment of fear.”Ms Ray-Rivers said people should talk to their children about body safety and the importance of boundaries.She explained: “Establish safety rules about privacy — like one person in a bathroom at a time. “Also, discuss boundaries. Just as we share about handwashing, please ask children to keep their hands to themselves. “Sometimes children cross boundaries with another child and this may be simply exploring. “But if children are never taught what is OK and acceptable and what is not OK, then they simply may not know when their behaviour has crossed the line.”Ms Ray-Rivers added: “Parents, please let your child know that they don’t show or touch their private parts to other children or adults, unless there is a medical reason and you are present. “They also should not ask others to show them or touch them in their private parts. “Keep those lines of communication open always, watch for behaviours and listen to your children.”• For more information and resources, visit scarsbermuda.com