The Internet has opened up a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life. But as they explore the information highway they can be exposed to dangers too.
There are individuals who attempt to sexually exploit children using the Internet as a means of finding and contacting their victims. These sexual predators will gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, kindness, and even gifts. They will listen to and empathize with their potential victim’s problems. Often times, these sexual predators will attempt to gradually lower children’s inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their online conversations. However, there are other sexual predators who will immediately engage in sexually explicit conversations online with children.
Children can be indirectly victimized through online conversations as well as the transfer of sexually explicit information and material. Adolescents are sometimes interested in and curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material, which makes them especially vulnerable to sexual predators. Sexual predators may use this curiosity about sex exhibited by teens to lure and exploit them. Children who have been seduced and manipulated by a clever sexual predator may not fully understand or recognize the potential danger of having contact with such individuals. Because of the potential danger and the ease of susceptibility of teens, it is important to know the signs that show your child is at risk online.
Some signs that your child might be at risk on-line are:
Your child spends a large amount of his/her free time on-line, especially at night. Children that become victims to on-line sex offenders spend a large amount of their time on-line, mainly in chat rooms, or even just on instant messanger. They go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, and sometimes to look for sexually explicit information. Children are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. Why? Well because while sexual predators are on-line all hours of the day and night, most predators work during the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure potential victims.
A huge red flag of a problem would be if you find pornography on your child’s computer. This is an indicator that they are visiting places online they should not be. Sexual predators will often times supply their potential victims with pornography to open the door to sexual discussions. If the computer is used by other family members, parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide pornographic files on diskettes, and watch for such behavior. It is also important to regularly check the online activity history, and to monitor use.
If your child receives mail (even junk mail), gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know, they may be at risk. It is common for predators to send letters, photographs, and gifts to their potential victims. This is part of the seduction process. On-line sexual predators have even sent plane tickets so the child could travel across the country to meet them. So, never be too wary of what comes into your home, whether by mail, the computer, or the phone.
If your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room, or has several applications running and switches between them each time you pass, they are probably at risk. A child looking at pornographic images or having a sexually explicit on-line conversation does not want you to see what is on the screen, so they will have a decoy screen.
There are many signs that your child might be at risk on-line but there are several things you can do to minimize the chances of an on-line predator victimizing your child.
1.Communicate and talk with your child about sexual predators on-line and the potential dangers.
2.Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom. It is more difficult to monitor and see what is on the computer screen if the computer is behind closed doors.
3.Use the parental controls provided by your service provider. The use of chat rooms should be heavily monitored. Parents should utilize and implement these mechanisms, but they should not totally rely on them.
4.Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that it is not your child’s fault; your child is the victim. The sexual predator is completely responsible.