Return to: How to Protect Your Child

Child sexual abuse happens online, too. As adults, we can prevent abuse by staying informed about children’s online activities and maintaining open communication.

Prevent online abuse

Preventing child sexual abuse begins with open communication. Ensure that your children know that they can come to you if anything makes them uncomfortable. Other ways to prevent online abuse include:

  • Demonstrate interest in your child’s online activity by using the internet with them
  • Keep computers in high traffic areas of your home like a living room
  • Use privacy settings and parent controls
  • Monitor browsing history and let your children know you are monitoring their internet use.
  • Set rules and limits for when and how long kids can be online, and consider posting the rules or a pledge by the family computer.
  • Be aware of who your child talks to online – be their Facebook friend and follow them on Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat
  • Make sure their address, email, cell #, etc. are not published.
Recognize the signs

Abuse most often starts with “grooming,” a series of manipulative behaviors that escalate over time. Signs that a child is being groomed online can include:

  • spending an excessive amount of time on the device that can access the internet
  • becoming angry when he/she cannot use the device
  • withdrawing from friends and family
  • Minimizing the screen or turning off monitor when others enter the room
  • Making or receiving calls from unknown numbers
  • Receiving gifts through the mail such as a bus ticket, cell phone or webcam


What should I do if I suspect a child is being abused?

Call both local law enforcement and the Department of Child Safety when abuse is suspected. Arizona Child Abuse Hotline 1-888-SOS-CHILD (1-888-767-2445)

What do I do if a child tells me they have been sexually abused?
  • Stay calm and listen carefully. Encourage the child to speak freely, but do not ask detailed questions about the abuse.
  • Reassure the child. Tell the child that you believe him or her, that telling you was the right thing to do, and that he or she has not done anything wrong.
  • Take action. Call the DCS hotline immediately: 1-888-767-2445. Also call local law enforcement.
It is not your responsibility to investigate abuse, interview the child or get all the facts. Just contact the authorities with what you know or suspect so that children and families get the support and care they need.
How do I know a child is telling the truth about abuse?
Children seldom lie about abuse. If a child discloses abuse, report what you know to the authorities; they will determine the facts and evidence. In rare instances when a child does lie about abuse, it can be an indication that something else is wrong.
Why don’t children tell?
There are many reasons why children may not disclose abuse. Because most abusers have a close relationship with the child and his or her family, the child may worry about getting their abuser or themselves in trouble. Many abusers make threats to ensure that victims do not tell. Victims may also be ashamed or fear that no one will believe them. Remember, children often indicate something is wrong through behaviors, not words.
Can children recover from the trauma of abuse?
Yes. Most children are very resilient. The most important things to help children heal from abuse are having supportive caregivers and access to appropriate resources.