As children spend more time online during the pandemic — whether it's doing schoolwork or streaming movies and videos — that increased online presence means they are at an even greater risk of encountering cyber predators.

In order to protect kids, the Child Exploration Investigations Unit at U.S. Immigration and Custom's Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations, has a variety of tools on its iGuardian webpage.

Homeland Security Investigations is the principal investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, a federal investigative agency with 7,000 special agents, second only to the FBI.

Richard Reinhold, assistant special agent in charge for HSI in Newark, said Project iGuardian is about educating children and parents about the dangers online.

Parents should be watching their children and making sure the apps they are using are age-appropriate, making sure they are private, turning off chat applications when appropriate, and if people are "friending: their kids, those identities should be confirmed through the parents.

He said parents need to teach children not to post personal information such as which school they attend or their favorite sports team, which can be used to ascertain passwords.

"Be a little paranoid and private," Reinhold advises.

There are some signs parents should watch out for if their child is talking to a child predator online. Reinhold said if the kids want to be in a private setting when they're talking to someone online, that's a red flag. Online predators usually ask children to do inappropriate things like sending photos of themselves. Often, they will tell children not to talk in front of their parents.

To help children stay safe, Reinhold said parents can opt not to give them the password in order to download applications without permission. There are apps where parents can see what their children are downloading.

Reinhold said many online video streaming services are not secure. So he advised parents to be in the room in case something happens.

Reinhold said the best thing a parent can do is talk to a child so that the parent learns about what they're doing and it doesn't seem like an interrogation.

To report suspicious activity of child exploitation, call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or go to www.ice.gov/tipline.

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