Experts warn about child mental health and cyber safety during pandemic

MEDFORD, Ore. – With kids more isolated than ever experts told NBC5 mental wellness is something parents should keep in mind.

Jennifer Mylenek is the Executive Director of Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, also known as CASA of Jackson Co. She’s noticed a growing issue in kids’ mental wellness while in isolation this year.

“You already have an authority figure in your home, parent, foster parent, whomever, telling you what you can and cannot do and now there is even another layer of restrictions with covid… Now you can’t do anything,” said Mylenek.

While virtual learning may protect some students from COVID-19, with more screen time, Mylenek told NBC5 it also opens the door to a new set of problems.

“First I thought, kids have been bullied at school, at least they are out of that environment. But apparently, cyberbullying has increased tenfold,” said Mylenek, “We’re seeing it even more so because if possible the kids are even more reliant upon this socialization through social media”.

Also, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said there’s a 99% increase in online enticement reports so far this year.

NCMEC became aware of predators openly discussing the pandemic as an opportunity to entice unsupervised children into producing sexually explicit material.

CASA of Jackson Co. has tips to keep your child safe from online predators.

“Make sure you have your kiddo’s passwords and do not let them onto a site unless you know what site they are on. Check their history on their computer. If you can make sure have access to their cell phone and everything that’s on it,” Mylenek.

Mylenek said right now it’s more important than ever to make mental wellness a priority in the home.

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