Seven signs that your child might be at risk on-line:
1. Your child spends a large amount of time on-line, especially at night. Many children that become victims to an online sex offender spend large amounts of time on-line, which the majority of time is spent in chat rooms. Children go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes even to look for sexually explicit information. Children are at the greatest risk on-line during the evening hours. This is because most on-line sex offenders work during the day and spend their evening searching Internet chat rooms trying to locate potential victims.
2. You find pornography on your child’s computer. On-line sex offenders will commonly supply their potential victims with pornography as a way to start sexual discussions. An on-line offender may use child pornography as a way to show their potential victim that sex between children and adults is “normal.” If the computer your child uses is used by other family members, parents should be aware that a child may hide pornographic files on diskettes.
3. Your child receives phone calls from men you do not know or is making calls to phone numbers you do not recognize. Many on-line sex offenders will want to talk to children on the phone to either engage in “phone sex” with the child or to set up an actual meeting time to engage in real sex with the child.
4. Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you are not familiar with. It is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and gifts to their potential victims. On-line sex offenders have even sent plane tickets so the child may travel across the country to meet with them.
5. Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room. A child that is looking at pornographic images or engaging in a sexually explicit conversation does not want you to see it on the screen.
6. Your child becomes withdrawn from family, and sometimes even friends. On-line sex offenders will try very hard to drive a wedge between a child and their family to strengthen his relationship with the child. After sexual victimization, children may also become withdrawn from family and friends.
7. Your child is using an on-line account that belongs to someone else. Sometimes on-line sex offenders will provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them, so parents are less likely to discover their child is communicating with an on-line sex offender.
The number one online risk for children is sexual predators. If you suspect your child is communicating on-line with a sexual offender, you should first consider talking to your child about your suspicions. Review what is on your child’s computer. Pornography or any kind of sexual communication is a very good sign that your child may be a victim to an on-line sex offender. You should then monitor your child’s access to the Internet, especially chat rooms and instant messages. You should also monitor your child’s e-mail. If you do discover that your child has been victimized on-line you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. And never blame or punish your child, even if they were a willing participant. It is not the child’s fault; the child is a victim.