Modern teenagers can’t imagine their life without the Internet. Online is the only place where they feel free to do anything and can create a small world of their own. But the World Wide Web is not just about having fun while playing online games and chatting with friends. It’s not a safe place, and attentive parents should tell about all possible dangers as soon as their kids start using digital devices with Internet access.
Child Sexual Predators
Today, online child predators are one of the biggest Internet threats. They target both girls and boys of any age trying to engage them in sexually explicit behavior, e.g. sexting, sending nude/semi-nude photos, exposing themselves on a webcam or meeting in real life with the possibility of having sex. The anonymity of the World Wide Web makes it hard to catch a predator online and plays into predators’ hands as they can easily hide their true identity and pretend to be anyone, for example, a child’s peer.
Predators look for their potential victims on the popular social networks, various groups, and blogs. Even such popular games like Minecraft or Xbox Online, which have online chat rooms for kids, give child predators the possibility to find and chase their victims.
The process of a predator alluring a child is called online grooming process. Predators usually target vulnerable children, with the problems in the family or at school. They build up a close bond, pretending to be an attentive and trusted “friend”. Gradually, they add sexual context into conversations. Having enticed a child into discreditable conduct, predators demand explicit images or meeting in real life under a threat that they reveal a victim’s obscene behavior to their parents and surroundings.
You can find hundreds of victims’ of online predators stories on the Internet. One of such online predators cases happened to Katy Glower, a 12 y.o. teen from Taxes. Being devastated by a loss of a family member, Katy found comfort in online talking to a 16 y.o. boy who she met in a chat room. Close communication between the girl and her new friend became an online relationship. In a year the boy sent Katy a Polaroid camera as a gift and asked for nude photos. When the girl’s mother got to know about indecent chatting and photos, she told the girl’s friend to stay away but didn’t report to the police. A year and a half later Katy and her mother got to know from Utah police that the “friend” in reality was a middle-aged child sexual predator. He held correspondence with over a dozen of other kids besides Katy. Eventually, the man was arrested and convicted.
Sadly, not a few online predators cases end up more terrifyingly and tragically, with the children experiencing sexual abuse in real life, being involved in child pornography, kidnapped, or even murdered. This happens because not all children find themselves brave enough to report about online predators to their parents or police and keep staying in touch with a predator incurring self into even greater danger.
Sexual Predators Statistics
Literally, any child of any age can become a predator’s victim, and if you think that your kid is smart and cautious enough to never get into such trouble – you are wrong. Online predators statistics is really alarming.
According to studies by Crimes Against Children Research Center, the Brookings Institution, and NSOPW:
1 in 5 U.S. teens who spend time on the Internet regularly, reports of having received unwanted sexual solicitations (requests of sexting, sending explicit images or having sex contacts) from other users on the Web they don’t know.
Only 25% of children, who encountered sexual solicitation or approach, told their parents or other trusted adult about
77% of children targeted by online predators are aged 14+. 22% are aged 11-13.
1 in 33 teenagers experienced an aggressive sexual solicitation in 2016, which means that a predator asked a teen to meet in real life, called them on the phone, or/and sent correspondence, gifts or money via U.S. Postal Service.
1 in 6 boys and 1 in 4 girls were sexually abused before the age of 18.
Signs that Need Your Immediate Attention
As a careful parent, you must pay close attention to certain behavioral signs that may witness about the dangerous situation involving your child and a sexual predator online. Separately, these signals may not be that vivid, but altogether they should become a red flag for you.
Your child spends a lot of time online on PC or mobile devices
Of course, this doesn’t necessarily mean that your kid is involved in an indecent communication with a predator. Most of the modern children are very much into the Internet and try to spend any free moment on the social networks. However, if the time your kid spares to the Web, increased significantly, it is worth checking what he or she is up to while online. Better be safe than sorry.
They receive phone calls, emails, and texts from the strangers
It is a very alarming sign. As soon as you get to know about any attempts of a stranger to contact your kid, you should find out who these people are and what are their intentions.
You find sexually explicit photos/videos on kid’s PC, laptop or mobile device
Some teens can be brave, yet imprudent, and may want to discover more about the intimate aspect of the adult life at a young age. As soon as you find explicit images on your child’s device, you should impose certain restrictions and explain how serious the consequences of such behavior can be, including not only the danger to get involved in communicating with a predator, but also, for example, being charged for porn distribution because of sexting.
You find out that the child uses hidden social network accounts, secret emails,
The fact that your kid creates a hidden account, changes their passwords, deletes browsing history, particular chats or parts of the conversation means that they have what to hide. For their good, you should find out the reason for such secrecy.
When approached, a child quickly switches off the screen or closes the apps on a cell phone/tablet
Children seek for privacy when it comes to their online activity, but excess caution when parents are around may have real and far more serious grounds.
You notice signs of anxiety, withdrawal from their normal activity and changes in behavior of your child
Sudden changes in behavior, habits and daily routine of a child may be the sign of serious problems they are facing (e.g. stress, depression, being bullied by peers). Meeting a predator is one of the possible reasons for such changes.
What can parents do to prevent their children from the online predators?
Talk and be attentive. Parents should explain their children who the online predators are. If parents notice several signs described above in their kids, they should encourage a child to tell about their worries or fears, listen attentively and help solve any problems.
Take safety measures. Specialists recommend to keep the Internet-connected PC/laptop in a shared family area (a kitchen or a living room) and try to stay with a child while they are using the Web. Also, parents should tell children about the danger of giving off personal information online (full name, address, etc.), and insist on having passwords of all child’s accounts on social networks.
Use technologies to help you protect your kid. A trusted parental monitoring app can help parents keep an eye on their kids’ Internet activity, and get to know about any potentially dangerous contacts at once.