These signs may indicate risky online behavior in your child. Not all of them should send you into a huff, or make you ground your child, but they are well worth knowing. If you notice these behaviors you can be clued in to watch your child more carefully:
1.Does your child spend more than 1 Â½ hours online, not doing homework, but just for fun? Children that spend a large amount of time online tend to be more prone to engaging in high risk online activities such as chatting with strangers, sharing personal information online and sending photos of themselves to strangers online.
2.Does your child have a lot of offline friends or are they loners? Frequently, children who have been lured by sexual predators online are loners and don’t have many offline friends. You may also want to watch and see if your child is neglecting their offline friends to spend time chatting.
3.Is your child between the ages of 11 and 15? Children in this age range are permitted to go places without accounting precisely for their time. This includes going to the Mall, the park or a movie unattended; this gives them a feeling of pride and responsibility, but sometimes they do not use their judgment well, and apply this to situations they should not be in. Usually by the time children are 16 years old they aren’t as susceptible to being lured by an online predator.
4.Does your child have a relatively balanced life, participating in several activities offline such as sports, music, and reading? Most children who use the majority of their free time to engage in offline activities are less likely to be lured by an Internet predator.
It is not uncommon for children to know more about the Internet and computers than their parents. If your child is more computer literate than you are, don’t despair. You can use this as an opportunity to have your child teach you a thing or two about the Internet. Get your child to talk to you about where she likes to go on the Internet and what sites she thinks you might enjoy online. This is also a good time to clearly state some of the rules you expect your child to follow while surfing the web.
One general rule that children should be aware of, is to never reveal personal information about themselves online. This includes their name, email address, home address, phone number, school address, etc. No matter the amount of Internet knowledge a parent may have or not have, parents should educate themselves and their children about the dangers online, as well as how to make choices that are safe. The Internet can serve young people well by helping them learn how to make good choices. Learning how to make good choices is a skill that will last a lifetime.
Do not ever blame or punish your child if she tells you about an uncomfortable online situation. The best thing to do is to work with your child so you both can learn what happened and figure out how to keep it from happening again. Knowing some of the signs that your child may be exhibiting risky behavior online can help to minimize the chances of them being later victimized while using the Internet.
If you suspect that your child is communicating with an online predator, especially a sexual predator online, first consider talking openly with your child about your suspicions. Explain to them the dangers of computer predators and sex offenders. Review what is on your child’s computer. Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can be a warning sign. Monitor your child’s access to all types of electronic communications such as “chatting”, and instant messaging. It is important that you do not let temptation lure them back in. Instead, make the access difficult, and make sure that they only use the Internet when you are around to monitor the behavior.