It seems that every week a new online predator case hits the headlines and when interviewed the family of the victim often says, “I never in a million years thought this could happen in my home, to my child.”
So how exactly does this happen? While it appears absurd to an onlooker, no one is exempt from the deceptive schemes of a predator. Earlier this week we talked about the subtle psychological manipulations online predators use to gain access to a child online.
Predators are shrewd, conniving, mentally unbalanced people who spend hours and months searching out and “grooming” kids online. Their goal is to get a child to post pornographic photos or to meet them in person to exploit them or hurt them. It’s what they do.
Instilling fear about “the bad guys” online won’t go far in equipping your kids. However, building a good offense of cyber savvy kids is likely the best defense.
A few tips: Be straight with your kids. Teach them about the tricks predators use and encourage them to be on the lookout for strangers who appear “too” friendly or too empathetic. Warn them that predators often are up on the latest movies, music, and trends in order to pose younger and interest kids in conversation and that they will almost always say they are younger than they really are.
Teach your kids that predators will often seduce their targets with compliments, kindness, and even gifts, which can encourage a child to let down their guard and be wooed into sexual advances. Remind them (a few hundred times) to never, ever meet a stranger in person.
How to be a wired and aware parent:*
- Communicate. Talk to your child often about sexual victimization and potential on-line danger.
- Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.
- Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
- Utilize parental controls.
- Always maintain access to your child’s on-line account(s) and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.
- Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line. There is much more to the on-line experience than chat rooms.
- Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, which he/she is not at fault and is the victim. The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.
*List Source: FBI.com