As a parent, you want to keep your children in the modern technology loop, as everything now is dependent on the internet.
Children at a young age are encouraged by their peers to connect and stay active on social media platforms. Children now learn everything online, starting with their school homework and online courses, following their dreams and interests, and looking into what they find interesting.
Nowadays, children cannot be without the internet. And as parents, you would want to offer them the technology they need to evolve and to do and learn more on their own.
However, the internet could be a scary place for a young child. We have heard so many stories of how the internet could be the breeding environment for online predators and criminals who seek contact with children for any illegal purpose.
It is our job to keep our children sheltered from these kinds of dangers while allowing them the freedom to discover and learn more independently. Keep reading to find out how to keep your children safe online.
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How Do Criminals Contact Children Online?
Online Chat Rooms
Online chat rooms are where most children, teens, and adults go to have conversations and meet new people. Those chat rooms are the breeding environment for online predators as all they need to do is create a fake name with a fake picture and then can afterward establish a conversation with a child and lure them in with any interesting topic.
Social Media Platforms
Social media apps are now opposing danger to children as predators can make a fake profile, fake information, and send a friend request to any child who might be intrigued by their picture. This method could work on young girls and boys who feel insecure about themselves and once they receive a compliment from a stranger, they want to speak to them more.
Online Gaming Platforms
The FBI defines online gaming as any game that is played while users are connected to the internet. This includes games that are played with controllers, handheld game devices, and apps on smartphones and tablets.
Predators can use those platforms to exploit young children either by texting or via voice communications during the game.
Criminals can also contact the children offline, and it could be at school, the playground, the park, or basically, anywhere they can have a private conversation with this child. Predators sometimes make the initial contact in person to make the child familiar with them.
Afterward, predators can use any other method to reach the child, either using social media or tracking them online to play with them. Once there is contact between the two, the predator will try everything to groom the child and most importantly keep it discrete.
Offline contact is more dangerous than any of the methods above when a child knows the predator, they might not know they are in danger, they might consider them a friend or even closer, which makes talking about it with anyone even harder for them, giving the groomer more space to control how the child thinks about their relationship.
How to Tell If My Child Is in Contact with an Online Predator?
The signs indicating that your child is in contact with an online predator might not be so easy to detect, as they can be in contact with them while casually using the computer and in most cases, groomers order children to not talk about their relationship.
However, some of the signs that should make the parents dig deeper are if they spend too much time on the internet, becoming suddenly secretive about their online activities, switching tabs or closing open windows if a parent passes and closes them, and lastly, using sexual language that they should not be aware of at their age.
How Do Criminals Groom Children Online?
Online predators looking to groom children on social platforms usually use the most popular social media platforms and make a fake profile and pretend to be their age. The first thing an online predator would do is secure the child’s trust by pretending to have the same interests, or by complimenting them or sending them gifts.
Once an online relationship has been established, the groomer will try and steer the conversation towards sex. The child might feel the pressure to take sexually explicit pictures of themselves and send them to the groomer.
In some extreme cases, groomers will try to pressure the children into meeting in person, some groomers actually flew in to meet the children. Afterward, they will blackmail them by threatening to share their photos and videos online or send them to their family or friends.
Usually, the online predators who try to take advantage of young children are strangers. Jowever, in some cases, it was a family member or someone who has connections with the family, and in such cases, the child will not even know they are being groomed, They will consider the groomer to be their girlfriend or boyfriend.
How to Spot an Online Predator?
If an online predator is talking to a child and trying to take advantage of them, they will be more secretive, more obsessed with their life behind closed doors and not just the normal teen interests, it could be a challenge to tell if this is normal teen behavior or predator behavior, however, predators tend to be more secretive and obsessed.
Keep in mind, statistics show that online predators target children between the age of 13-15, and this is the age where you need to speak to your children about online dangers.
How to Protect Your Child?
There are many ways you can use to protect your children from online predators without restricting their freedom. However, keeping them informed and talking to them about those dangers seems to give the best results as you gain their trust to tell you more about their personal lives.
As difficult as this conversation might be, you need to speak to your child about online predators, and how there are people online who are looking to take advantage of them, and in what ways.
Warn your children about taking exposing selfies, set ground rules for safety offline, and most importantly, warn them about online flirting and online relationships especially in chat rooms. And by establishing trust between the parent and the child, they can speak to you about anything they find fishy.
One more method that you can try is parental control apps, which allow parents to monitor their child’s online activities. This includes social media, browser history, SMS, phonebook, and even their live location.
Parents say that the best way to protect their children online is to talk to them about those dangers and keep them fully aware of everything that might happen, on top of keeping track of their online activity just in case their children got curious.
Online predators are very dangerous to our children and their well-being, even if they figured it out early, they might have already impacted them emotionally. Therefore, it’s really important to keep track of your children’s online activities and to speak to them openly about the online dangers they might come across, and trust you with anything they feel is dangerous.