Kids victim to more abuse during pandemic, officials say


SAN DIEGO – As the coronavirus pandemic moves past the eight-month mark, the strain on families is perhaps hitting children the hardest.

Officials say they’re seeing concerning signs of a rise in both violence toward children and online predator reports. Emergency room doctors at Rady Children’s Hospital, for example, are reporting an 80% increase in cases of child injuries consistent with child abuse.

“That is a phenomenon we see because economic downturn is a trigger for emotions,” District Attorney Summer Stephan said.

Studies over the last decade show that during times of economic struggles there is an increase in child abuse. That coupled with the pandemic is making matters worse.

In some cases, the key is not in what is reported, but rather, in what’s not. Reports of child abuse are actually down by 40%, and officials don’t think that means it’s happening less often. 

“The teachers, the counselors and all the people associated with our schools — that’s where we get the most reports of child abuse,” District Attorney Summer Stephan explained. “The eyes and ears that are normally there as a protective safeguard for kids are no longer there.” 

Domestic violence is not the only threat: Crimes against children online have quadrupled since March as kids are distance learning on tablets, computers and phones, giving more access to sexual predators.

“It often starts with the dare, ‘I’m taking off an item of clothing.’ Then it’s two items of clothing, and many of these kids are too young to understand how disturbing this is,” Stephan explained.

“They often think that they’re talking to someone their own age that’s the image that’s put online but they’re really talking to a 50 or 60-year-old predator.”

For information on how to talk to your kids or recognize these kinds of issues, visit the district attorney’s website.

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