Trinity Mount Ministries

Showing posts with label Covid 19. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Covid 19. Show all posts

Friday, October 2, 2020

Guidance for Teenagers to Stay Mentally Strong During the Pandemic

The pandemic has disrupted many lives, including teenagers who also have a hard time attending school part-time, sporadically, or in a complete remote setting. Like most people, they also get stressed out and may find it challenging to cope up during these times.
Not only are the parents' efforts necessary, but teenagers themselves must also know how to care for their emotional wellbeing to keep themselves steady even with the pandemic going on. Here are some guidelines that teenagers can follow to ensure that their wellbeing is protected.

Take Advantage of Your Emotional Superpowers

Teenagers tend to experience emotions more intensely than adults. This could amplify the psychological discomfort that teenagers experience due to the current situation, but it also means that teenagers also get more out of pleasures and delights than others.
Recently, the only bright spots present seems to be only the small ones, which most adults do not feel satisfying. Teenagers can easily find happiness in simple things like playing video games, eating their favorite treats, cuddling with their pet, or being in nature.
Some adults may find it hard to grasp how these things make teenagers happy. But for teenagers, these small bright spots are more comforting and joyful. Teenagers should make the most out of their happy moments and their emotional superpower.

Trust Your Feelings

The first step in solving emotional distress is acknowledging your feelings. So, when a teenager feels sad, angry, stressed, and frustrated with the current situation, these feelings are undoubtedly right.
In a culture when these feelings are called unnecessary and emotional distress signals fragile mental health, they must know these feelings are valid, especially with what's happening to the world right now.
When at times they feel happy, this too is true. Teenagers must know that acknowledging and processing these feelings will help them cope with the situation and help them stay steady.

Count on Your Psychological Defenses

Every person has their psychological defenses that can either be unpleasant at times or helpful as it protects them from emotional overload. These defenses are often healthy and help people regulate how much upsetting a situation that a person can take all at once.
For example, teenagers use humor to crack up jokes in online classes to manage the frustration of sitting through hours of classes helps them maintain their connection to what is happening while reducing the emotional charge. The point is, the mind is wired in a way that enables the person to get through difficult situations by managing the rational and emotional thoughts to protect a person's wellbeing.

Mental Health Maintenance

Enough sleep and physical activity improves mood and reduce stress. Teenagers should enjoy the company of people that soothe and energizes them and remind them to stay away from people who can make them feel stirred up and spent.
Distribute mental energy with care toward the controllable things. Remember that feeling upset this time is expected as people have every right to be frustrated and resent the challenges of the pandemic. But direct this energy to the right things to prevent causing more anxiety in the future and focus on the power within as it will help make you feel better.

Check out more news and information on Mental Health on Science Times.

Monday, September 14, 2020

THORN - Keeping your kids safe online in the age of COVID: Usable tips for parents - PARENTING PREVENTION

By James, Thorn Staff 

As a parent, I’m concerned.
Not only am I worried about my family’s health in the midst of a once-in-a-century pandemic, but I’m figuring out how to run a school out of my dining room, learning how to work with my spouse a few feet away from me at all times, and my cat needs ear drops twice a day.
Since I work at Thorn, I’m also acutely aware of the fact that children are spending way more time online—at least 50% more time on screens for ages 6-12—and now I’m hearing about Zoombombing, where nefarious users hack into Zoom sessions, including elementary school lessons, to share abusive content. I’m not used to hearing about child safety from the news — I usually hear it from my team first. But these days, we’re all in this together.
I know I need to have some really important and difficult conversations with my child about staying safe online right now. Parenting a child with both special needs and a proclivity for technology, I’m constantly striving to balance keeping their digital experience safe while adjusting to a sudden increase in our reliance on technology as a family.

I recognize that I sit in a privileged position in the grand scheme of things, being able to continue working remotely on a mission that I care deeply about. But regardless of where we are in the world or what our daily lives look like right now, parents the world over are facing the same dilemma as me: how do I keep my child safe online — not only right now, but in a future that is based in technology?
My colleagues at Thorn, and our partners in the child-safety community, have been developing and sharing resources that make both my day-to-day parental duties and those tough conversations a little less intimidating.
My hope is that these tips are approachable, pragmatic, and helpful, and in no way act as a source of stress for caregivers that already have a lot to balance.
Here’s how to start thinking about, talking about, and addressing online child safety with your kids in the age of COVID-19:

Ask your kids to teach you about their favorite apps

Cropped image of father and son in casual clothes using smartphones and smiling while sitting on couch at homeAdobe//georgerudy
For children that have their own devices, this is the perfect time to ask about the apps and games they use the most. But don’t stop there: take it a step further and let your kids actually show you how to download and use their favorite apps and games.
By letting your child become the teacher, it gives you a chance to hear directly from them how, when, and why they use these apps. You are invited into their world and see it through their eyes. And most importantly, you’ll see how the games work, where it’s easy to meet new people, which behaviors are risky and which aren’t, so you can help your child navigate their digital world.
This is critical information that takes guesswork out of the equation and also reveals where safety issues might arise. Now when you have conversations with your kids about online safety, you’ll be able to speak their language.

Participate in online trends with your kids

You’ve heard of TikTok, but have you completed the latest viral challenge?
Ask your kids about the viral challenges they’re seeing on TikTok and which one you can do together. That might mean acting a bit silly or feeling a little awkward at first, but it’s both great bonding time and an opportunity to learn more about the platform.
Again, let your kids lead the way here. It’s a chance for them to teach you something, which they don’t often get to do, and a fun way to spend time together while still allowing the kids to interact with technology.

Talk to your kids about sharing content

Times have changed, and just as many adults share suggestive pictures with their partners, sexting is also more common among youth. One recent survey found that as many as 40% of kids are exposed to a sext by the age of 14.
That means content sharing of nude or partially nude images isn’t just an issue that applies to teenagers, but something any child interacting with a device should be aware of.
As a parent, I know just how uncomfortable and awkward this conversation can be. Thankfully, has some excellent resources for caregivers on how to start the conversation. There’s also important information on what to do if your child has had an image of themself shared beyond the intended recipient without their consent, and the next steps to take.
Check out the Stop Sextortion site for more ideas to explain the risks of self-generated content.

Know the words “sextortion” and “grooming”

We’ll go into these in more depth in future posts, but sextortion and grooming are two important risks for you to know when keeping kids safe online.
Grooming refers to the tactics used by online predators to convince or coerce children into making and sharing sexually exploitative content. Grooming can take a variety of forms, but hinges on creating trust and leveraging vulnerabilities.
Sextortion refers to the coercion that can happen after that content is produced. For example, through grooming a child may be convinced to share a nude, partially nude, or sexually suggestive image of themself, which predators then use as leverage to coerce a child into further sexual exploitation. This could take the form of a predator pretending to be a child’s peer through text chat, gaining their trust and coercing them to share an image. Once that one image is shared, predators use it as leverage to coerce them into sharing more.
One easy way to get the conversation started? Tell younger kids that if they ever receive a message or interaction from someone they don’t know on any platform, from video games to social media or texts, to never respond and come straight to you.
We’re looking forward to diving into these topics and sharing directly from our team of experts over the coming months. Subscribe to our emails below and follow us on social media to be the first to see our future deep dives on these topics.

Become your kids’ safety net

kids in front of ipadAdobe// ulza
For older children in particular, but young ones as well, make sure they know you’re a safe person to come to, even if the thought of them sharing content makes you feel afraid or frustrated.
I think of how my parents always told us that if we were ever in a situation where people were drinking and we needed a ride home, to call them and they would pick us up no questions asked. This message was coupled with frank conversations about the risks of drinking, and about my parents expectations that I not be drinking, but I felt safe enough to ask for help when I needed it. I trusted that I had a safety net.
Make sure your kids know you’re a safety net. And also make sure they’re aware of resources like the Crisis Text Line, where kids can go if they don’t feel comfortable approaching adults.

Make sure classroom video meetings (and peer video chats) are secure

Schools are doing an exceptional job pivoting to remote learning, but with so much going on it can be easy to miss some key steps in keeping everything secure. And some companies have been caught off guard by the massive increase in users which have in turn exposed security flaws.
You can help by keeping an eye out for some basic security practices:
  • Ensure video chats are always private, and when possible, password protected.
  • Never reuse the same meeting ID or password.
  • Send video conference links just before the meeting starts.
  • Don’t share meeting links outside of private messages (like emails or texts, and make sure your email password and that of whoever you’re sending to is secure).
  • Designate someone to be the meeting supervisor, who will manage participants and watch for uninvited guests. For most conferencing apps this will default to whoever set up the meeting.
  • Ensure everyone has installed the most up-to-date version of the app. Zoom, for example, has recently been adding new security features every few days.
Make sure schools and your kids are using these basic security protocols for video chats—and talk to them if you find they aren’t. We’re all in this together, and shared knowledge can make the whole community safer.

Report abuse content and sextortion—and never share it

No matter where, when, or how it happens, if you or your kids come across CSAM, report it. If you’re not sure what constitutes CSAM, it is legally defined as any visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (a person less than 18 years old). This can include images, video, audio, and any other content type.
You should report it to whichever platform you find it on, and be sure to also report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). NCMEC is the clearinghouse for all reports of CSAM, but they also field reports from online platforms. Cover all your bases in this case.
And remember: never share abuse content, even if you’re trying to report it. It’s actually illegal, no matter your intentions, and can keep the cycle of abuse going.

Use existing resources

  • NCMEC’s Netsmartz cartoon is a great way for young children to learn about staying safe online while also being entertained.
  • The Zero Abuse Project has compiled 25 tips for responding to child abuse during a pandemic.
  • Child Rescue Coalition has some additional tips for keeping Zoom meetings safe.
  • The Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children has compiled useful, evidence-based resources for positive parenting during a pandemic.
  • Common Sense Media can help to provide guidance for parents on apps, games, and websites.
  • The Family Online Safety Institute has developed resources for digital parenting.
  • And if anxiety is high and you or your kids just need to talk to someone, you can contact the Crisis Text Line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a remote organization, they are well equipped to connect you or your kids to resources, whether they need help with a potentially abusive situation or just feel anxiety due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Start the conversation wherever you’re most comfortable – but start it

Portrait of family taking a selfie together with mobile phone at home. Family and lifestyle concept.Adobe//Mego-studio
Online safety is an ongoing conversation that will likely change and grow as quickly as your kids. It’s not always easy to broach these topics, but starting wherever you are most comfortable and taking it in steps can help.
These conversations can happen more organically if you’re spending time with them on the apps they use and showing interest in learning about the virtual world in which all of our children are growing up.
Importantly, one instance in which you should react immediately is if you discover CSAM content or find that your child’s images have been shared without their consent. Reporting content as quickly as possible can help mitigate long-term harm. For more info on getting content removed, check out NCMEC’s guide.

The new normal

Parenting is really different today than it was a few months ago, and it’s going to be that way for a significant amount of time. We’re not always going to have all the answers, and just being here and learning more is a great first step.
We’re all in this together, and together we will be able to best defend our children from online sexual abuse. You are not only a part of a global ecosystem of parents and caregivers, but a community of people dedicated to eliminating child sexual abuse from the internet, which Thorn and our partners work toward every single day.
No matter what you’re doing, or how you’re doing it, thank you for being a defender of happiness and being willing to learn more.
If you want to stay up to speed on all things Thorn and how we will be responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, please sign up to receive our emails below..

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

More time at home for kids heightens concern for water safety


(Pixabay Photo)
PHOENIX – Like most summer programs and activities for kids throughout Arizona, a camp that offers free swim lessons and water safety education in Phoenix had to be canceled this year.

And that’s a big concern for Karen Cohn.
She and her husband lost their son Zachary Archer Cohn in a pool drain entrapment in their backyard swimming pool in 2007. A year later, they founded the ZAC Foundation in his honor.

The Connecticut-based nonprofit educates kids and their families about the importance of water safety.

But this will be the first time in a decade that the group will not be able to hold its four-day ZAC Camp nationwide, including Phoenix, where about 100 kids ages 5-9 participate every summer.

Cohn said water safety is even more urgent now with the coronavirus pandemic.
She said not only are water safety summer camps and programs like the ZAC camps canceled, parents are more distracted as they try to juggle working from home and trying to supervise their kids.

One way she said parents are trying to keep their kids entertained is by “running out and buying kiddie pools and inflatable pools without being aware of the danger that they could pose to young children.”
Drowning is a leading cause of death for young children ages 1 to 14, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“A young child can drown in less than 2 inches of water,” Cohn said.
“So even if you have a bucket that has water left in it, young children can fall in and not be able to get themselves back up right.”
The latest data from Children’s Safety Zone shows 10 children under 5 have drowned in Maricopa and Pinal counties so far this year.

Cohn said now more than ever she feels it’s urgent to educate parents about water safety, starting with never leaving a child alone anywhere near water, even if a lifeguard is present.

She also recommends adding layers of protection to keep kids from reaching above-ground pools. That includes ensuring that pools are fenced and have self-latching gates or alarms.
For smaller and inflatable pools, Cohn recommends emptying the water and turning them upside down when they’re not being used.
“It’s really important to also not leave toys in these pools, because children are attracted to those toys,” she said.
She also warned parents about flotation devices, like inflatable floaties and tubes. She said they can give children a false sense of security that they can swim.
“Talk to them about that,” she said. “Also give them the opportunity to get in the water without these flotation devices, so they can understand what it feels like when they’re in the water and they can’t swim.”
And be aware of pool drains. She said if a drain is not working properly, everyone in the pool should get out immediately.
“No one should be swimming in it until it’s repaired,” she said. “Not only can children become entrapped, adults can as well. It’s hundreds of pounds of pressure that can only be released when the pool pumps are shut down.”
More water safety tips can be found on the ZAC Foundation’s website.

Monday, May 11, 2020

U.S. Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations Announce Effort to Combat Internet Exploitation of Children during the Pandemic

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Vermont

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont is proud to help lead the fight against child exploitation, and law enforcement will be ever-vigilant during the pandemic, according to U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan.  She stated: “Children are precious, innocent, and vulnerable, not to mention the future of Vermont.  We can and should be judged by how well we protect them.  The U.S. Attorney’s Office has no tolerance for victimization of our youth during this time of great challenge.  We will do all we can to protect them, including aggressive prosecution of the perpetrators.  We are especially grateful to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for its strong partnership and long tradition making investigation of crimes against children a top priority.”   
HSI Boston Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael S. Shea noted, “HSI offices in the Green Mountain State and throughout New England collaborate with partners such as the United States Attorney’s Office in Vermont to bring child predators to justice on a daily basis.  Our society’s current reliance on social distancing measures to combat COVID-19 can expose children to increased internet and social media content.  HSI considers outreach efforts such as this part of a greater strategy to help protect children and educate parents and guardians.”
The internet has always provided a way for predators to locate and harm children.  Because of COVID-19, children are home and spending more time online. Many parents are teleworking, performing the extraordinarily difficult task of balancing work with the needs of their children’s education and all the other demands of childcare. Predators have always sought child victims online, and they are seeking to take advantage of the shifting home dynamics caused by the pandemic. Children are vulnerable to a variety of forms of online predatory behavior, from sexual exploitation to financial crime. According to HSI, during the pandemic period, there has been a 150 percent increase in reported incidents in Vermont of online child exploitation and attempted exploitation.  These reports include incidents of cybercrime against children and child extortion.

Vermonters should be assured that law enforcement in the Green Mountain State – at the federal, state, local, and county level – works as a team every day to combat internet crimes against children, and we are ever-vigilant during this pandemic.  We thank all agencies, and in particular, HSI and the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for their close daily partnership to protect children in Vermont and around the world.  
Please review the following resource designed to keep children, families, and the general public informed. A flyer called “Internet Safety Tips for Parents and Guardians” can be viewed at
To report a child exploitation crime or concern call the CyberTipline: 866-347-2423. Your call will be routed to the appropriate resources based here in Vermont. 
Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice.  Led by United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.  For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

How to keep your child safe online while stuck at home during the COVID-19 outbreak

If your family is stuck at home during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, it’s likely your children are spending a lot more time online. School, chats wivriends and grandparents, even music lessons — so much has shifted online.

Being connected helps children and teenagers reduce the impact of this new (temporary) normal and encourages them to continue with their lives. But it also presents a new set of challenges for every parent. How can you maximize all that the internet has to offer, while minimizing the potential harm? It’s not an easy balance on a normal day, let alone when facing a health crisis like COVID-19.

5 ways you can help keep your children safe online

1. Keep them safe with open communication

Have an honest dialogue with your children about who they communicate with and how. Make sure they understand the value of kind and supportive interactions and that mean, discriminatory or inappropriate contact is never acceptable. If your children experience any of these, encourage them to tell you or a trusted adult immediately. Be alert if your child appears to be upset or secretive with online activities or if they are experiencing cyberbullying.

Work with your child to establish rules on how, when and where devices can be used.

2. Use technology to protect them

Check that your child’s device is running the latest software and antivirus programs, and that privacy settings are on. Keep webcams covered when not in use. For younger children, tools such as parental controls, including safe search, can help keep online experiences positive.

Be cautious of free online educational resources. Your child should never have to provide a photo or their full name to use these resources. Remember to check the privacy settings to minimize data collection. Help your child learn to keep personal information private, especially from strangers.

3. Spend time with them online

Create opportunities for your child to have safe and positive online interactions with friends, family and you. Connecting with others is more important than ever at the moment and this can be an excellent opportunity for you to model kindness and empathy in your “virtual interactions”.

Help your child recognize and avoid misinformation and age-inappropriate content that may increase anxiety about the COVID-19 virus. Many digital resources from credible organizations like UNICEF and the World Health Organization are available for you and your child to learn about the virus together.

Spend time with your child to identify age appropriate apps, games and other online entertainment.

>> How to talk to your child about coronavirus


Boy at home with family sitting at a table on a laptop
Alain, 12, learning from home in Côte d'Ivoire. "I like to study at home, and it's easy to follow classes online. Of course I miss my friends, but it's also nice to spend more time with my dad at home."

4. Encourage healthy online habits

Promote and monitor good behavior online and on video calls. Encourage your children to be kind and respectful to classmates, to be mindful of what clothes they wear and to avoid joining video calls from a bedroom. 

Familiarize yourself with school policies and helplines to report cyberbullying or inappropriate online content.

As children spend more time online, they can be exposed to more advertising that may promote unhealthy foods, gender stereotypes or age-inappropriate material. Help them recognize online ads and use the opportunity to explore together what is wrong with some of the negative messaging you see.

>> How to deal with cyberbullying

5. Let them have fun and express themselves

Spending time at home can be a great opportunity for your children to use their voices online to share their views and support those in need during this crisis.

Encourage your child to take advantage of digital tools that get them up and moving, like online exercise videos for kids and video games that require physical movement.

Remember to balance online recreation with offline activities, including time outside, if possible.