The Internet is a wonderful way for children to learn and connect with peers from around the world. While kids are masters of manoeuvring the Internet, most of them are not mature enough to recognize when online predators are trying to lure them into bad situations. Every day perverts trolls chat rooms in search of young victims.
These manipulators and Online Predators create fake personas and use them to lure boys and girls into their clutches. By the time your child realizes that the freckled-face 15-year-old boy she’s sharing a virtual life with is really a 50-year-old pervert, it may be too late.
Children who are most at risk of becoming targets of online predators are those who:
- frequent online chat rooms
- have low self-esteem
- are willing to give out personal information
- are willing to have conversations about sex
In order to protect your kids, teaching them about online safety is crucial. While nothing is 100 percent fool-proof, being diligent, speaking openly and educating your kids are the keys to protecting them.
Online Predators Watch: Be truthful with your children. While you don’t want to make your kids afraid to use the computer, you have to be frank with them about online predators who might befriend them. Explain to them that not everyone is who they say they are on the Internet. Also, insist that your kids don’t give out personal information online.
In addition, remind your kids they should never agree to meet up with anyone they’ve met online. The stories you hear every day about children going missing after building relationships with people they’ve met online are real.
Online Predators Watch: Put the computer in a central location. Allowing your child to have a computer in her bedroom is not a good idea. After the lights go out and everybody goes to sleep, your child might be sitting up at three or four in the morning chatting with a “friend” online. When the computer is in a central location such as the family room, hopping on the computer in the wee hours of the morning doesn’t appeal to most teenagers.
Also, when the computer is somewhere where everyone can see it, your child is less likely to do things that will get her into trouble.
Online Predators Watch: Monitor passwords and text messages. When kids text and use social media, most parents have no idea who they’re talking to. Do unannounced checks on your children’s computers to gain access to passwords and to see what sites they frequent. There are apps available that will allow you to monitor your kids’ text messages, pictures and any other information they may send from their phones.
Online Predators Watch: Speak to kids about being mindful of posted photos. Kids love to document their lives with photos and upload them to blogs and social media sites. Ask to view any pictures your child intends to post online. Let your children know that all posted pictures must have your stamp of approval.
Before photos are uploaded, check to make sure there is no identifying information visible in them. Things like school shirts, car tags or street signs can give an online predator all the information he needs to track kids down.
Online Predators Watch: Limit your child’s computer use. Encourage your child to do other things besides sitting on the computer all day. The less time he spends in chat rooms and on social media sites, the less likely he is to fall prey to an online predator.
There is no way to tell with 100 percent certainty that a predator is in touch with your child. However, here are some signs that may indicate she might be at risk.
- Your kid spends a lot of time on the computer at night.
- Your child shuts the computer off or changes the computer screen quickly every time you enter the room.
- Your kid is getting phone calls and text messages from a person you don’t know.
- Your child is suddenly withdrawn or distant from the family.
- Your child is using another person’s online account.
- You find pornography on your child’s computer.