Online predators are an increasing threat to families and children everywhere. As soon as you or your child opens their computer, it opens a window for thousands of predators, who work in conjunction with one another. They teach each other how to appease the parents; how to avoid the law; and how to groom children. They might make a child feel like they are special and the child can trust no one but the person on the other end of the screen, but in truth, they may be grooming over a 100’s of children at a time.
They target both boys and girls of all ages and use the Internet to assume any identity they want. They are master manipulators with skills that is too much for a child to combat alone, let alone be aware of their cunning ways. The predator targets children who have a lack of emotional and family support (Parents can be home and not involved with their children). They develop a relationship with your child and it progresses to the child is made to believe they can trust no one, but the other person on the screen. The perpetrator may coax the child to start showing them pics of themselves, maybe undressing in front of the computer screen, or doing sexually explicit acts. They will then record these instances, or use the information your child has given in confidence to shame or guilt the child into silence. The grooming process may take months, but since they are grooming several, they have plenty of time to invest in the grooming process. Then one fateful day, they will ask to meet your child at a mall, a park, or somewhere of interest to your child, still pretending to be someone of the child’s age range.
With social network profiles and smart phones ISP addresses, predators can easily find information about potential victims since many naive children list personal information with no regard for safety. Teens will post their jersey numbers, school photos, dance club photos, clubs they are in, school and church events, and things happening around the house, which makes it easy for a perpetrator to find their address of your home, their license plate number, where they hang out, if mom and dad are home, if they have siblings, and any information they need to fulfill they hidden agendas. Post placed on the internet travel fast worldwide, and may never be recovered, which will impact future jobs and college applications.
Parents must be on guard to protect their families. It is better to have your child mad at you for snooping through their internet profiles and postings, than for them to go missing and never return home. There are many organizations and government agencies designed to assist parents with issues such as these. Internet searching for information will also provide many links and web sites to help.
Predator Grooming • Chat Rooms (based on interest) • Look for child oriented screen names • Search through SN profiles • Strike up a conversation • Show interest and gain their trust • Build them up (be their friend)
Predator Warning Signs • Spends a lot of time online • Find porn on the computer • Receive phone calls, mail, gifts from people you do not know • Withdraws from normal activity • Switches screen quickly (Alt+Tab) • Uses other accounts for e-mail or Instant Messaging
Some Helpful Web Sites for More Information: http://www.fbi.gov/publications/pguide/pguidee.htm http://www.ic3.gov http://www.missingkids.com http://www.netsmartz.org http://www.staysafe.org http://www.isafe.org/
Online predators: Help minimize the risk
How do online predators work?
How can parents minimize the risk of a child becoming a victim?
- Talk to your kids about sexual predators and potential online dangers.
- Use family safety settings that are built into Windows 8, Windows 7, and Windows Vista.
- Follow age limits on social networking websites. Most social networking sites require that users be age 13 and over. If your children are under the recommended age for these sites, do not let them use them.
- Young children should not use chat rooms—the dangers are too great. As children get older, direct them towards well-monitored kids’ chat rooms. Encourage even your teens to use monitored chat rooms.
- If your children take part in chat rooms, make sure you know which ones they visit and with whom they talk. Monitor the chat areas yourself to see what kind of conversations take place.
- Instruct your children to never leave the chat room’s public area. Many chat rooms offer private areas where users can have one-on-one chats with other users-chat monitors can’t read these conversations. These are often referred to as “whisper” areas.
- Keep the Internet-connected computer in a common area of the house, never in a child’s bedroom. It is much more difficult for a predator to establish a relationship with your child if the computer screen is easily visible. Even when the computer is in a public area of your home, sit with your child when they are online.
- When your children are young, they should share the family email address rather than have their own email accounts. As they get older, you can ask your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to set up a separate email address, but your children’s mail can still reside in your account.
- Tell your children to never respond to instant messaging or emails from strangers. If your children use computers in places outside your supervision-public library, school, or friends’ homes-find out what computer safeguards are used.
- If all precautions fail and your kids do meet an online predator, don’t blame them. The offender always bears full responsibility. Take decisive action to stop your child from any further contact with this person.
How can your kids reduce the risk of being victimized?
There are a number of precautions that kids can take, including:
- Never downloading images from an unknown source-they could be sexually explicit.
- Using email filters.
- Telling an adult immediately if anything that happens online makes them feel uncomfortable or frightened.
- Choosing a gender-neutral screen name that doesn’t contain sexually suggestive words or reveal personal information.
- Never revealing personal information about themselves (including age and gender) or information about their family to anyone online and not filling out online personal profiles. For more specific rules, see How to help your kids use social websites more safely.
- Stopping any email communication, instant messaging conversations, or chats if anyone starts to ask questions that are too personal or sexually suggestive.
- Posting the family online agreement near the computer to remind them to protect their privacy on the Internet.
What can you do if your child is being targeted?
- If your child receives sexually explicit photos from an online correspondent, or if she or he is solicited sexually in email, instant messaging, or some other way online, contact your local police. Save any documentation including email addresses, website addresses, and chat logs to share with the police.
- Check your computer for pornographic files or any type of sexual communication—these are often warning signs.
- Monitor your child’s access to all live electronic communications, such as chat rooms, instant messaging, and email.
Source: Some of the above information was adapted, with permission, from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation publication A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety.
Tiscali has announced a partnership with online safety firm Crisp to help parents monitor and protect children when online.
The Crisp software analyses the content of online conversations in an attempt to uncover predators wanting to groom, and potentially abuse, children.