I bet many of you reading this have seen an episode of the Dateline series To Catch A Predator, but if you haven’t, click this link to watch The Best Of To Catch A Predator.
The cameras roll while an undercover officer poses as an underage girl, willing to meet someone she has only met online, and that meeting is for sex, and yes, sex to take place in her family’s home. Some men travel hundreds of miles to meet a tween or a teen. With alcohol and condoms in tow, they are met with Chris Hansen, cameras, and public humiliation. This TV series shows predator after predator attempting to engage in sexual acts with underage girls while the paddy wagon waits around the corner. Viewers watch each episode unfold, man after man, predator after predator claiming this to be the first time they have tried to entice a minor or, unbelievably, to speak to them about the dangers of chatting with strangers online.
Surprisingly, Dateline’s effort to raise awareness about the online predator issue didn’t do much to curb the problem. It seems that public exposure and shame isn’t stopping them from preying on our children. In fact, online child predators are still at it, and in record numbers.
Now, every parent says “Not my child, s/he would never meet up with a stranger. S/he would never do that.”
Take a minute to watch this video of real-life parents watching their children as they meet up with total strangers; The Dangers Of Social Media (Child Predator Experiment)
Not my kid?
Here are some statistics from The Demand Project, a nonprofit organization on a mission to eradicate the problem of online predators. Its website says the following: “We will direct our efforts, resources, and energy toward the eradication of sexual exploitation, with an emphasis on the sexual exploitation of children. Whether they’re victims of trafficking, forced prostitution, online enticement or child pornography—our mission is to end all sex crimes by targeting the DEMAND side of sexual exploitation. (Demand = Predator)
- 93 percent of teens ages 12 to 17 go online.
- Of children five years old and younger who use the Internet, 80 percent use it at least once a week.
- One in 25 children ages 10 to 17 received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor tried to make offline contact.
- 15 percent of cell phone-owning teens ages 12 to 17 say they have received sexually suggestive nude/semi-nude images of someone they know via text.
- State and local law enforcement agencies involved in Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces reported a 230 percent increase in the number of documented complaints of online enticement of children from 2004 to 2008.
- Thirty-four percent of children ages 10 to 17 have received unwanted exposure to sexual material, according to key online victimization research presented by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
- In 82% of online sex crimes against minors, the offender used the victim’s social networking site to gain information about the victim’s likes and dislikes.
- 65% of online sex offenders used the victim’s social networking site to gain home and school information about the victim.
- 26% of online sex offenders used the victim’s social networking site to gain information about the victim’s whereabouts at a specific time.
- 63% of teens said they know how to hide what they do online from their parents.
So, what should you do? As a parent, you may believe that talking with your child about the dangers that exist online is enough, but sadly it is not. The parents in the social experiment video above are just a few examples of how educating alone is not enough to challenge adolescent decision making and impulse control.
The smartest solution to stop these predators from reaching your child is to use Social Judo. Real-time alerts about the people, places and things your child is exposed to online are the easy, smart way to parent today. No need to spy on your child or to scroll through their device on the off chance they put it down, just alerts.
Parents today need to know what their children are doing in cyberspace, what they are posting, what they are googling and what they are saying. The time has come and smart parents across the globe are using the tool that gives kids room to make mistakes, but lets parents step in when those mistakes are too big and too dangerous.
Be smarter, your kids need you to be.
Andrea Difilippo is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, nationally recognized parenting expert and Chief Parenting Officer with Social Judo.