Children and teenagers today have the opportunity to connect with others in many ways. They have cell phones, giving them instant access, either by voice or text. Social Media allows them to chat with friends and make new friends around the world.
They upload photos, videos or music to share with people, most of which they have never even met. As enjoyable as this may be, it also has the potential to be dangerous.
Previously, parents could know their children were safe at home. In today’s busy world, parents can be completing household chores in one room and their child can be the victim of an online predator in another.
Most people have been aware for years of the danger of online predators. With the popularity of online communities on gaming platforms like xbox and social media like instagram and snapchat, it is necessary to remind your children how to stay safe on the internet.
Statistics show that 1 in 5 children will be solicited over social media and other interactive web-based programs.
Prevent Your Child From Becoming A Victim
Establish some ground rules. Talk to them about how to prevent becoming an innocent victim of an online predator use the following to establish those ground rules.
- Never agree to meet with anyone they do not personally know.
- Do not send pictures of any kind on the internet to anyone they do not know.
- Never give out any personal information on the internet to anyone. And that includes where they go to school.
- Do not open up any emails from email addresses they do not know or respond to texts from numbers they don’t know.
- Do not accept followers or friends from anyone they haven’t met in person.
- Monitor who they are playing online games with – ask questions.
- Tell them not to believe anything that anyone tells you off the internet, especially if you do not know the person.
- Remind your child to tell you if he or she receives any suspicious or suggestive message, comment or photo that makes them uncomfortable they need to tell you immediately. Assure them that: it’s not their fault and they won’t get in any kind of trouble and they can still play their games and have access to social media. However if they fail to do so, they can lose privileges.
- Remember anyone can say anything over the internet, do not believe what they say.
Strategies of Online Predators.
Even though most children know the rules, it is still easy for them to fall victim and get swayed into believing a practiced predator. Online predators are usually, male, seductive, introverted, sadistic, sexually indiscriminate and persuasive.
- Target children who are new to the platform.
- Sending gifts to children in the mail or electronically through gaming prizes.
- Target kids who are confused about their sexual identity.
- Focus on kids with problems at home.
- Online predators test the child’s comfort levels. Many online predators move slowly, befriending the young person before moving in for a meeting or sexual discussions online. Others, if they feel the child is open to it, will immediately begin explicit conversations with the child and use it to build a bond between them. Either way, these are highly manipulative individuals who know how to reach a child where they are most vulnerable.
Remember – sexual predators are EXCELLENT at concealing their feeling to the world. They are very patient and cast a wide net.
How to help your kids from being prey to online predators.
The following tips will help parents keep their kids safe from online predators, while still giving them the freedom to use the Internet and learn valuable life skills:
- Talk to them about the dangers that exist online. Parents should learn everything they can about online predators and cyberbullying then share that information in an open and honest dialogue with their children.
- Monitor their device and gaming use. As a parent, you can’t be everywhere all the time, but you can limit the bulk of your child’s online time to periods when adults are present. Create “online family time” and use these moments to learn more about your kids and what they like to do.
- Instruct your kids to tell an adult if they feel threatened or uncomfortable while online. Many kids who encounter online predators never tell an adult because they are too embarrassed. Assure them that they will NOT get in trouble, they will NOT have the game or device taken away. Remember, threatening to take the device away in order to protect them will be considered punishment.
Make sure they know that the best thing to do is tell their parents or teachers IMMEDIATELY when they encounter a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable.
How to tell if your child is being targeted?
- A child or teen spends large amounts of time online.
- You find pornography on their device.
- A child or teen receives messages from people you don’t know; or numbers you don’t recognize.
- A child or teen receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
- A child or teen becomes withdrawn from family and friends; or quickly turns the device off or changes the screen if an adult comes into the room.
- A child is using someone else’s account.
- A child creates a secondary identity like a “Finsta” (Fake instagram account).
What can you do if your child is being targeted?
- You should contact your local police immediately if an online correspondent sends a young person child pornography or sexually explicit images; and especially if a young person is actually sexually solicited.
- Check your devices for pornographic files or any kind of sexual communications—these can be warning signs.
- Monitor the child’s access to all live electronic communications, such as gaming platforms and social media. Online predators almost always meet potential victims through public forums first, and then continue communicating with them privately.
- Check EVERY app on their device – some really nasty applications can be disguised as innocent apps or even known apps. Click them all.
- Don’t give a child a device without you know their password and their password to EVERY app. (this is when you can take the device away). The rule is simple – you have 100% access at anytime until they can pay for it themselves.
Resources to help keep them safe online.
Fortunately many resources exist to help prevent kids from accessing dangerous people and material online. Darkness to Light compiled lists to help parents and guardians of children to make devices with internet access a safer place for kids. The list includes articles about protecting children, services that assist in protecting children online, books on the topic and software to install on computers that children use often. GO HERE to learn more.
Protective software programs. All of the software on this list helps protect kids against many dangerous online situations and inappropriate content. The software can be installed on any device.
- NetNanny http://www.netnanny.com/
- CyberSitter http://www.cybersitter.com/
- Software4parents http://www.Software4parents.com/
- k9webprotection http://www.k9webprotection.com/
- SafeFamilies, http://www.SafeFamilies.org/
Services and Organizations
Web Wise Kids are a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring child internet safety by giving tips and advice to parents and children on how to protect themselves from online predators.
Enough is Enough Lighting the way to protect children and families from the dangers of illegal Internet pornography and sexual predators.