The Signs to Look for and how to Protect Your Children from Online Predators
Online predators are misrepresenting themselves as friends and young kids to target children chat rooms and virtual reality computer games. The Dept. of Justice reports that 1 in 7 children are victims of unwanted sexual solicitation and 1 in 25 are asked to meet online predators in person. Allowing your child to navigate through these dangerous channels unsupervised, can put a target on their back. However, by staying informed, communicating with your kids and installing parental insights and control settings, you can prevent your child from falling victim to a dangerous online friendship.
What is Grooming:
A child predator will attempt to groom his or her victim by first, gaining the trust the intended victim. After a predator identifies his/her target, they will begin to build a relationship, looking for ways to gain a child’s trust, sharing secrets and breaking down defenses. Once a foundation of trust is instilled in the child, the predator will begin to isolate the victim, creating secrecy around their relationship.Shortly after, the predator will make attempts at explicit or sexual contact with the child, sending pictures online, asking for the child to reciprocate or worse, such as attempt to meet in person. The predator will use manipulation tactics, like suggesting everybody does it (share photos) and it’s normal to do it or use extortion to get what they want. Finally, the predator will control the relationship by using fear and shame to keep the relationship secret and ongoing.
Red Flags to be on the lookout for:
Predators use virtual reality games and video game chat rooms to target children. They look to build relationships through a sense of comradery, such as playing on same team. Another common tactic is by misrepresenting themselves as a friend from school or a friend of a friend. Parents should be on the lookout for a change in behavior as it relates to the time spent online playing games or interacting on social media.
- Your child is asking to spend more time online, playing new games via gaming console but won’t play in a family room.
- Your child becomes defensive when you ask to discuss what your child does online, websites they visit, games they play.
- Sudden increase or use of inappropriate language or behavior, not overheard at school or home.
- Quick reflexes, closing out of the computer screen, turning the volume off or shutting down a gaming console/computer when you enter a room.
How to protect your children from being exposed to dangerous online predators:
Always screen the games or websites prior to allowing your child to play. Look for age-appropriate games with good reviews from fellow parents.
Only allow game consoles with parental controls. Keep the game console in a family area, where you can always have one eye on your child from other rooms.
Communicate with your kids about the importance of protecting their information. Never assume that someone is who they claim to be online. Teach them to pick up the phone and call their friend to confirm it’s actually them on the other end of a game or chat room.
Add an extra line of defense to your home network by installing a family friendly wireless router with Parental Controls. Look for a router that allows you to set time restraints, safe browsing settings, a usage report and STOP button.