The internet is full of wonders and information that is available to all with just one click. While there are many benefits of the internet, there are also many online dangers targeting children such as online predators. These predators look to isolate and target young children who don’t know any better. Learn more about online predators and how parents can protect their children from them by reading below.
What Are Online Predators?
These sexual predators lurk online to find and target children, usually between the ages of 12-15, that can be easily manipulated. They look for kids who are new to the internet, isolated, rebellious, and/or exploring their sexuality. About 1 in 7 kids are targeted by internet predators.
So, why do these predators do this?
- Enter into a sexual relationship with a minor.
- Commit child abuse or sexual abuse.
- Kidnap, rape, or even murder children.
- Steal a minor’s personal information and identity.
How Do Online Predators Target Children Online?
Every predator’s methods are different depending on what they are trying to achieve. In general, these predators start by creating accounts in online chat rooms, video games, forums, social networking sites, and private messaging apps. They want to be active in online places where children frequent the most.
Then, they search these outlets for potential victims. Once they have chosen their target, they may create a new account or alter their current one to match a person their target would be interested in. From here, predators will initiate engagement in the form of friend/follower requests, commenting, sharing their posts, private messaging, liking, and more. Their goal initially is to make the target comfortable.
After some time and a connection has been established, the predator will start to ask for personal information like their phone number, name, email, etc. The predator may also send nude photos of themselves and ask for them to send explicit images of themselves in return. Eventually, the predator will likely want to take things offline, wanting to meet the child in-person.
Even if kids are taught about online predators, these criminals are very smart and use manipulative tactics to get what they want. For example, they may use sextortion by threatening a child in some way in order to get sexual favors or explicit images/videos from them.
How To Protect Your Child From Online Predators
– Educate Them About Online Predators and Basic Internet Safety Rules
If your children don’t know about online predators and the basics of staying safe on the internet, they will have no clue whether or not they’re being targeted. For online predators, they should know what they are, how they target children, and what they might ask for. For internet safety rules, they should learn the basics like avoid communicating with strangers. Check out this great video to learn about web safety.
– Monitor Their Cell Phone
The surefire way to ensure your child is not communicating with predators is by monitoring their cell phone and other devices. As a parent, you’ll be able to see their texts, private messages (including those on social media), social media activity, call logs, and much more. Any hint of suspicious activities you will be able to uncover in an instant, especially when using Auto Forward.
– Block Anyone Who Shouldn’t Be Contacting Your Child
Whether they are messaged via text, social media, online chats, or instant messaging apps, block anyone who shouldn’t be in touch with your child. If you are not sure if someone is actually their friend, ask your child. Also, teach your child how to block accounts they don’t recognize as well so you don’t have to be on top of them 24/7.
– Use Inappropriate Content Filters & Settings
Most apps, social media platforms, and online web browsers have built-in filters and settings to eliminate inappropriate content. Even though many social media platforms have an age user minimum (usually 13-years-old), it doesn’t mean that all the content shared is meant for their eyes to see. These filters may also prevent them from seeing this type of content if it’s sent to them via private message. Learn how to block inappropriate content online.
– Friend Them On Social Media
To keep an eye on your child’s social media activities without being overly invasive, friend their accounts. By friending/following them, you can see their posts, content shared, and those who are interacting with them. However, just friending them won’t enable you to view their platform messages.
As technology continues to grow and advance, online predators are going to adapt and get smarter at finding victims and evading law enforcement. It’s your job as a parent to make sure you educate your child about internet safety and do what you can to protect them.