Often, we have an image of a sexual predator lurking around school playgrounds, scoping out their potential victims. The reality is today’s predators search for victims while hiding behind a computer screen.
The International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children recently published a report entitled “Online Grooming of Children for Sexual Purposes: Model Legislation & Global Review,” which includes tactics used by online predators. They include:
Prey on a child’s desire for romance, adventure and sexual information;
Manipulate a child by listening to and sympathizing with the child’s problems and insecurities;
Flatter and compliment the child excessively;
Drive a wedge between the child and his or her parents and friends;
Make threats and use child pornography featuring the victim to blackmail them into silence.
While every parent worries about online predators, research shows that it’s fairly rare for kids to be contacted by adult strangers seeking sexual communication. According to the University of New Hampshire’s Youth Internet Safety Study, reports of unwanted sexual solicitations declined 53 percent between 2000 and 2010. As of 2010, only 9 percent of kids who use the Internet received an unwanted sexual solicitation.
This doesn’t mean you should let your guard down, however. Always stay on top of what your child is doing online. Ask them which apps, games and other tech they use. If they’re on social media, friend or follow them. Set rules about times and places for device use (for example, banning phones and tablets from bedrooms). Find out how they chat; is it through an app or are they texting on their phone?
By being diligent and aware of your child’s online activities and digital footprint, and taking an active role in knowing what your children are doing online, you can help make the digital world a safe one for them.
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