You think online predators can’t find your kid. Think again.
Would you let your child walk alone at night? Would you invite strangers into your home and let them play with your child alone? If your child has access to a smart phone, tablet or computer – that is precisely what is happening.
Geez what an alarmist you might think.
But do you realize that according to The U.S. Department of Justice, 1 out of 7 children will receive unwanted sexual solicitations on the Internet by online predators. That’s crazy! You want to hear something even scarier – 1 out of 25 children will be enticed to meet online predators in person.
Phew, you might tell yourself – My child is…
doesn’t talk to people they don’t know
isn’t on chat sites
is a boy
Does your child play Minecraft on the computer? Is your child on Xbox Live? Do they have an Instagram, Kik or Snapchat account?
The truth is – any child who has access to technology is a potential target. Any child.
So, what should you do? Lock up all electronics and bubble wrap your child? Possibly, but I fear that may be frowned upon.
The reality is our world is interconnected with technology. And honestly, that is not all bad. But, just like we don’t drive our kids around without insisting they wear seat belts – we shouldn’t let them navigate the Internet without some safety education.
You can ban your child from online gaming and social media. But, I can’t tell you how many kids I have seen in my child therapy practice who have secret social media accounts or go online at their friend’s house.
Education is key. No matter what safety nets you think you have in place.
So let me break it down. First let’s talk about what all those perps are up to these days.
They are loving the world wide window into your child’s life. No longer are the days where they have to tediously develop a relationship with you and your child to groom your child for sexual abuse (although that still happens). Now, they can befriend your child in the comfort of their own living room – and you can sit oblivious in yours.
APPROACHES ONLINE PREDATORS USE
They learn everything they can about your child from social media. Kids naively post personal and identifying information.
They develop an online persona that matches your child’s interests and age. Online Predators can have fake pictures and video that convince your child that they are a kid too. For some girls – the lure of an older more experienced male is used.
They join online gaming (or Xbox Live), chat sites and popular apps that kids use.
They “friend” your child’s friends to earn instant credibility. Kids tend to trust someone who shares mutual acquaintances.
They then “friend” your child under the guise that they have friends in common.
They start to develop a close bond online.
They start talking to your child about their real life.
They let them vent about you and their friends. They make the child feel like no one else understands them like they do.
They share innocent pictures back and forth.
They send more risky, sexualized pictures and encourage your child to do the same.
Online predators then threaten the child with sextortion saying things like, “I will show your parents and friends the pictures you sent me if you don’t send me another picture doing [fill in the gross blank].”
Sometime they will encourage the child to do sexually explicit behavior in front of a webcam. It is often recorded and used for further sextortion.
Some online predators then convince the child to meet in person.
WAYS TO KEEP YOUR CHILD SAFE
Talk to your child about the above antics. Let them know not to share identifying information online. For extra help – read this article, Internet Safety Tips for Parents.
Teach them that online predators can use fake pictures and video to make people believe they are kids. They will often take on the physical identity of other victims – using their pictures and video.
Let them know that just because someone is friends with one of their friends online – it doesn’t mean that their friends know them in real life.
Make sure all their social media profiles are marked private.
Be a friend on all your child’s social media.
Don’t be naïve – kids make secret accounts, so if you are not seeing many postings on the account you are following – dig deeper. If you want extra security – read this article How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online with mSpy.
Do not allow passwords on any electronics.
Have a family charging station in the kitchen and require all electronics get “checked in” for the night.
For extra security you can purchase products like the Family Friendly Wireless Router, [affil link] when paired with the app, it gives you parental controls and lets you know about your child’s internet usage. You can set time limits, block websites and apps, get a weekly usage report and stop internet access at the touch of a button. Love it!
Keep up with the abbreviations kids use – they keep changing! Click here for a great cheat sheet.
PAW or PRW – Parents are watching
PIR – Parents in room
POS – Parent over shoulder
P911 – Parent emergency
(L)MIRL – (Let’s) meet in real life
The days of privacy are over unfortunately. Check your child’s phone once in a while. Look for mysterious apps. There are many apps out there that are designed for private communication. Make sure to scroll through all screens – as some kids hide these apps on other screens or in an app folder.
Skim through texts – who are they talking to? Are you seeing a bunch of one way conversations. If so, chances are your child is deleting some of the conversation.
Lastly, be prepared to be called the worst parent EVER. Get ready to hear, “None of my friend’s parents do this!” and “You are so over protective!”
You’re not. Good parents do hard things. Things that won’t earn you brownie points with your kid, but will keep them alive. And for that – it’s worth it.
Do you have a story about online predators? Share in the comments below and educate others.
I recently came across another therapist who offers an e-course to walk parents through completely safe guarding their technology. There are so many ways we can protect our kids if we just knew how! His wealth of knowledge is super helpful! You can learn more about his course here at iparent 101: Safety in the Digital Age.
Want to keep your kids safe? Check out these other important articles:
Do you have friends and family that need to be educated on the dangers of online activity? Click the share button and spread the knowledge.