Children, especially adolescents, are often times interested in and curious about the world of the Internet. It has become all to easy to get your hands on sexuality and sexually explicit material, to meet people you would not have met otherwise, and to create a whole new world for yourself, online.
Because your child may be curious about this kind of stuff, they will sometimes use their online access to seek out such materials and individuals. Online predators targeting children/adolescents will use and exploit this curiosity to attract and lure potential victims. Some teenagers may also be attracted to online offenders closer to their age, who may not be considered a child molester, but these individuals should still be considered dangerous.
Parents and children should remember that an online sex offender and predator can be any age or sex; the individual is frequently average looking, not a dirty, unkempt, shady looking, older man who fit’s what many of us picture a predator, especially a sexual predator, to look like.
Educating children/adolescents about the potential dangers online is everyone’s job. Knowing the warning signs, and recognizing improper online behavior which leads to practices of unsafe online use, is critical to keeping your child safe online.
Parents need to closely monitor their children’s activities online, as well as offline.
Recognizing that your child may not be practicing good online safety can be quite tricky; many of the signs exhibited by adolescents can be typical, normal teenage behavior, but sometimes these signs are not and may indicate your child is not practicing safe online behavior. Some of these signs include:
•Your child spends a large amount of their free time online.
•You find pornography or sexually explicit materials on your child’s computer.
•Your child receives phone calls from people you do not know or is making calls, sometimes long distance calls, to numbers you do not recognize.
•Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you do not know, or even an increased amount of junk mail addressed to your child.
•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 and switches between them.
•Your child becomes withdrawn from the family, and even may become withdrawn from friends to spend time on-line.
•Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else.
Recognizing these signs is only part of the solution to keeping children safe online. There are also many things you can do to minimize the chances of an online predator victimizing your child. Here are six things that may help:
1.Talk to your child about sexual victimization and the potential danger online.
2.Spend time with your children online. Learn about their favorite Internet sites.
3.Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom. When the computer screen is visible to parents or other family members, it is much more difficult for a child to visit sites they should not be visiting, have too intimate or personal of conversations, view sexually explicit material or have conversations pertaining to sex.
4.Utilize parental controls that are provided by your online service provider. Heavily monitor your child’s use of chat rooms. Chat rooms can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss a wide range of topics, but it is frequently used by computer sex offenders or identity thieves to locate potential victims. Parents should utilize these mechanisms, but they should not totally rely on them.
5.Always maintain access to your child’s online account and check your child’s e-mail frequently. Let your child know about your access and the reasons why.
6.Teach your child to use the Internet responsibly. Make them aware that there is more to experience online than chatting.