With the coronavirus pandemic raging on, parents are faced with the choice of sending their kids back to school for in-person learning, or keeping them home to participate in virtual classrooms.

Some parents fear that putting their child back in school will put them at risk of contracting COVID-19, spreading it to their peers and their family when they come home. Many fear children gathering at school will only cause a major spike in COVID-19 cases across the country. Some schools have already reopened and closed again due to kids becoming infected.

On the other hand, some parents cannot easily work with their kids at home. Others cannot afford childcare while they go to work. Even less fortunate children see more domestic violence and emotional abuse the longer they are at home.

So, which is better?

There’s no clear answer yet. As Casey Allen, superintendent of Ballard County Schools in Kentucky told the Washington Post, “We will be building the plane while we fly it, on virtual learning.”

Further, Bob Farrace, a spokesman for the nonprofit National Association of Secondary School Principals said, “Unfortunately, we lost a lot of time in playing those political games. There hasn’t been nearly enough conversation about what learning is really going to look like.”

Essentially, parents, teachers, and students are flying by the seat of their pants and hoping for the best. But there’s one more thing for parents who opt for online learning to consider: Online predators.

Kids in online learning at higher risk of encountering online predators 

Of course, the more time kids spend online, the more at risk they are of encountering a predator. According to KFOX14, in El Paso, Texas, federal investigators are chasing down sex offenders who prey on children online.

“These individuals are so desperate to get their hands on a child, that they are willing to do anything,” El Paso FBI Supervisory Special Agent, Minerva Shelton said.

Undercover operations are in place so that authorities can catch predators before they victimize a child. Further, the FBI plans to immediately investigate tips from parents, teachers, or others. They will arrest predators who commit crimes.

Shelton also told KFOX14 that he has seen predators work in tandem with other predators, posing as minors so that they can talk to children and even invite them into group chats or video calls. In those situations, Shelton says, the predators often try to get the child to perform sexual acts.

“The minor does not know that in this room there are numerous individuals watching. Once that child is recorded it’s out there and it’s never going to stop being traded from one perpetrator to another,” Shelton said.

To learn more about online sexual predators, grooming, and keeping your children safe, check out How Online Predators Groom Teenagers.