Many parents believe their kids are smarter than to engage with a stranger online. Smart, responsible and engaged parents often think that talking with their child about safe internet use, educating about the dangers online, and perhaps even setting some limits is enough to get them to make good decisions and to keep them safe. Despite our best efforts, the statistics indicate something completely different.
31% of teenagers said that they usually reply and chat with people they do not know while online. This is not because you failed, and it’s not because your teen is stupid or reckless.
It is because predators have a system that overrides your stranger danger parenting talks by systematically and methodically grooming your child. Talking about the dangers is simply not enough. As parents, we owe it to our kids to actively protect them instead of passively warn them. Our kids deserve to be kept safe when exploring all of the awesome things out there in cyberspace, and it is your job to do just that.
Online predators use a carefully constructed plan to identify vulnerable youth and manipulate them, quickly transitioning from stranger to trusted confidant.
How do they create this false sense of trust and friendship with your child?
They simply use the information your child has posted about themselves; information about school, friends and family. They share likes and dislikes, struggles, dreams and fears. They share Information about you and how much they can’t stand your rules and they share feelings like loneliness and sadness. Online predators will use all of this information to act like the one person who really understands them.
Isn’t this what our kids say to us all the time? That we don’t understand them, that we don’t listen to them? Feeling understood, valued and supported, even by someone they have never met, becomes intoxicating. And just like that, the grooming has begun.
6 Signs that may suggest there is an online predator in your child’s life:
- Increased time spent online especially at night.
- Nude pictures or porn on their devices.
- Gifts sent to your home from people you don’t know, phone calls you don’t recognize.
- Increased secrecy about who your teen is chatting with.
- Changes in email, instant messaging and social media usernames and accounts.
- Noticeable behavioral changes; withdrawn, depressed, anxious, irritable.
Statistics to consider;
- 1 in 5 U.S. teens surveyed said they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation while online.
Sexual predators indicates tend to be between the ages of 18 and 55 and most often target kids between the ages of 11 and 15.
- 1 in 25 youths received an online sexual solicitation in which the solicitor tried to make offline contact.
- In 100% of the cases, teens that are the victims of sexual predators have gone willingly to meet them in person.
- 75% of children surveyed are willing to share personal information about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services.
11% of teenagers and young adults say they have shared naked pictures of themselves via text message, of those 26% do not think the person they sent them to shared the pictures with anyone else.
What can you do to protect your child from online predators?
- Use software to help you parent smarter.
- Choose one that will alert you in real time if your child is in trouble, and one that can ensure sexual pictures won’t be sent or received.
- Use the privacy settings on all social media sites. If you don’t know how to do that, you need to learn.
- Ask your teen for their social media usernames and passwords. Safety first, privacy second.
If you don’t have your child’s username and passwords for each of their social media accounts, it may be impossible for you to get to them in the case of an emergency.
Kids make mistakes, but it is your job to be informed and protective. Let them make mistakes, but protect them from the ones that will change their lives forever, and perhaps even yours. As parents, you can be smarter. Your child needs better protection from online predators and they are relying on you to deliver.