Paula Green is an electronic and Internet safety expert based and current teacher of the online course “Basics of IT for Children.” In this article, she provides a short guide for concerned parents to the dangerous content which may be lurking online.
A lot of things have changed since the Internet was created in 1969. And without any doubt, it has become an inseparable part of our lives. For adults, it is a tool for work and entertainment. It is also a vast source of information for kids, who use it for school and to learn more about the world around them.
Unfortunately, besides people who use the Internet for good, there are those who use it for evil, such as grooming and stalking children. With the communication tools offered by the Internet, such as chat rooms, e-mail, and instant messaging, people can easily get together. And anonymity really helps building trust and intimacy. It is much easier to open up to people if you don’t see them (and probably never will).
How Do Online Predators Work?
The chat rooms and forums mentioned above are the favorite tools of online predators. Going through their teenage years, kids can have tough times. These days, parental authority has little value for many kids, so they seek for support in online chats and forums. Discussion boards sometimes can help teens deal with their problems. Statistics say that 86% of kids chat online without telling their parents about it.
Vulnerable and susceptible young adolescents often fall victim to online predators. While seeking for the ways to move away from parental control, teens can fall for people who seem to pay attention to their needs and desires. And looking for relationships and authorities outside of their family, they gladly take risks under the guise of Internet anonymity.
Predators usually try to seduce their victims gradually, with affection and attention – knowing teen psychology well, they seem to listen to their problems and support their ideas. They are good with modern music and they know how to seem “cool” enough to interest a kid. But in short time, online predators start easing youngsters’ inhibitions by engaging them in sexually explicit conversations and showing them pornographic materials. Most predators are ready to spend significant time, money and energy on communicating with a teen, as long as they may evaluate kids they talk to online for future face-to-face contacts.
How to Protect Your Child?
There are a number of steps parents can take to save kids from online predators, as well as prevent the online danger from becoming an offline one.
- Talk to your kids about the problem. Actually talking and explaining things to your children is the key to establishing trustful and close relationships. That would help you preventing any future dangers.
As to online predators, be sure to tell your kid details of the issue, and not just tell them not to talk to strangers online. Explain your child what kind of malicious people there can be online and warn them about grooming and tactics predators can use.
- Limit the time your child is spending online. Also, be sure there’s a fixed time during the day for the Internet use. Ensure there are no all-nighters on suspicious websites and online forums.
- Move your computer. Place it in living room or somewhere it can be visible. Unlike a computer in your kid’s room, a public one keeps your child away from explicit materials and dangerous websites. But keep in mind that there are also mobile devices kids can use for Internet surfing.
- Install parental control software. Using pre-installed settings might seem like enough. Yet, it does not ensure total security. A proper monitoring app alike Pumpic mobile monitoring will help blocking harmful chats and websites, and will survey other communication tools your kid might be using. This action might seem like spying (which it’s not), so be sure to inform your child why you are using parental control. You may be certain that otherwise, sooner or later, they will find out, and the reaction might be loud.
And as a bonus, here are some tips you should share with your child – just to be sure they know how to protect themselves.
- Be careful with what you are downloading and uploading. Never click on untrusted links and websites, and be sure you do not upload suggestive images of yourself.
- Choose a gender-neutral screen name. Be sure to avoid names containing age and sexually suggestive words. Using ‘princess’, ‘flower’ or ‘girl/boy’ is not a good idea, as well. Also, do not include your postcode, school name or mascot.
- Tell an adult. Whenever something disturbing happens to your online, tell a parent about it. Discussing an issue would be useful for you and your future online experience.
- Never reveal personal information online. This applies to any personal profiles as well as conversations with strangers.
- Quit communicating. Whenever a person starts asking questions that are too personal or sexually suggestive, stop communication.
- Never agree to meet in person with anyone you’ve met online.
The Bottom Line
Online predators are an issue all parents and children should be aware of. The entire family should be united in keeping its members protected from danger. Parents should do everything they can, as well as teaching their children about their own security, both on- and off-line.