In the age of the Internet, children face a host of new threats posed by cyberbullying and online sexual predators. In many cases, the abuse online can extend into the real world. State and local agencies may intervene when they suspect that a child is suffering from physical, sexual, emotional or psychological abuse. In addition, state and federal authorities have adopted new methods of handling missing or abducted children, including the widespread use of the Amber Alert system. State authorities must often balance the rights of a parent versus the safety of a child when dealing with complicated child protection issues as a family’s life can be turned upside down when state authorities or courts intervene.Child Protection and Child Abuse
Child abuse can come in many forms, all of which can be devastating to a child’s well-being and development and can lead to lifelong consequences. Children who suffer physical abuse are more likely to develop violent behaviors that carry on into adulthood. Child neglect can be just as devastating and the failure to provide adequate care can result in intervention from state protective services agencies. Increasingly, states are relying on mandatory reporters such as teachers, counselors, and others to report situations where a child is suspected to be suffering from abuse. In some cases, criminal charges against the child’s parents or guardians will be pursued, especially when physical or sexual abuse is suspected.Child Protection and the Internet
Increasingly, young people spend more and more of their time online. This has changed how young people interact and socialize and has also exposed children to a number of dangers that lurk online. Cyberbullying is a major problem among youth and has even led to suicide. Teens are increasingly engaging in “sexting,” or the exchange of explicit materials online with boyfriends, girlfriends or even total strangers. In many cases, these images or videos will be disseminated, which can even result in criminal charges for the teens sending and receiving this material. Online predators are a serious concern for parents and many adults target teens and minors to develop inappropriate relationships.Missing and Abducted Children
Every parent’s nightmare is having their child abducted or go missing. Law enforcement agencies have taken steps to mobilize public involvement whenever there is a reported child abduction and the AMBERT Alert system is designed to quickly send out information regarding a suspected child abduction. In many cases, a child will know his or her abductor and family abduction is a serious issue. These incidents often arise out of contentious divorce or custody disputes between parents and require careful handling from law enforcement agencies. Children who run away from home also present unique challenges to law enforcement, as these minors may not have a safe home to return to. Children who run away are at great risk of harm and may be more likely to turn to drugs and prostitution. Children with disabilities who go missing also pose a number of challenges for authorities, as these children may have difficulties communicating, recognizing dangers or finding safety.