The internet and social media have turned out to be irresistible for the digital generation who never wants to take a break from these technologies. Studies confirm that children between the ages of 8 and 12 spend more than six hours of a day on social networking platforms wherein they meet new people, develop self-esteem and release study stress. At the same time, they may expose to the vulnerabilities and potential dangers of the online world. The widespread adoption of the internet and mobile phones has speeded up the online crimes. After cyber-bullying, catfishing and scamming, online child predation is another emerging threat that is victimizing most of the children. Around 82% of child abuse cases are devised from the social media where the predators get and manipulate the information about the victim. More than 75% of the victims of such cases are girls between the age of 13 and 15.
Who are the Online Child Predators?
An online child predator is an adult who uses the internet to contact minors, often posing as a child or teenager. The predator aims to exploit underage kids for sexual or other abusive purposes. He seeks to develop a relationship with the target and use that relationship to start a sexual discussion or lure kids to meet offline. The kids who are emotionally disturbed, lonely and naive are more likely to be the victim of these predators.
How Online Predators Trap Children?
The internet provides a free and quick way to communicate with the people around the world. This is the mean which is being used by the cyber predators. The predators use social media sites, chat rooms, blogs, dating apps, emails, online gaming sites and other online platforms to find vulnerable children. The social media provides assistance to them in getting information about the target like what they like and what are their activities.
The tools they use to lure kids are flattery, attention, courtesy, and gifts. They admire victims, pose to be their well-wishers and seek them to be in a relationship by giving presents. When the child gets attached to them, they start to include sexual stuff in their conversations. They share sexually explicit photos and videos showing children engaged in sexual activities to prove that such behavior is acceptable. When the kid loses consciousness and gets trapped they sexually exploit them.
When the victim tries to cut off communication with the predator, they emotionally blackmail or threaten to tell their parents what shameful things they had been doing. They leave the victim with no other choice than to continue bearing sexual abuse or taking their lives.
How to Know If your Child is in Contact With a Predator?
Finding out whether your child is communicating with a predator or not is not complex. If you are noticing sudden changes in your kids’ behavior, habits, and mobile phone use, you need to be alert. Given are the common signs that your child is communicating with a child predator.
Seeking More Privacy While Using Phone
When a kid is doing something they know it to be wrong, they would get nervous or try to hide what they are doing on seeing their parents or siblings coming to them. If your teen girl has started receiving long hour calls from an unknown source and she seeks privacy for these calls, she might be in contact with a predator who does not want to be disclosed.
Excessive Use of Phone and Internet
There is not any surprise that kids love the internet but if you suddenly feel this love to extend, you should not keep your eyes close. If your kid is giving more time to their phone, computer or internet, and there is not an obvious reason behind this excessive use, you need to be informed of their mobile phone and computer activities.
Having Fake or Secondary Social Media or Email Account
If your kid is having a secret social media or email account you are not aware of, it is a sign that there is something worrying. It can be a sign that your kid is trying to hide the online activities which they think parents would not allow them to do.
If you find child pornography stuff on their phones or find them looking for such stuff on the internet, it is a sign that your kid is being trapped by a predator.
Getting Gifts and Meeting Anonymous
Your child is receiving gifts from a friend you do not know about or she remains excited to meet an anonymous personality. It might mean that she has a new love interest that she is feeling shy to discuss or she is initiating a relationship with someone she is not allowed to disclose. In this second scenario, the anonymous person is most probably a predator. It is important that you know about every person your kids meet or have relation whether formal or romantic.
The Ways to Protect Kids from Online Predators
Whether your kid is communicating with a cyber-predator or not, it is your responsibility to take measures to protect your kid from the scoundrels and other online dangers. Here are a few steps you can take to ensure your kid remains protected from the online predators or if she is being victimized, she could get out of that vicious circle.
Talk and Listen
There should not be a communication gap between parents and kids. If you are not listening to your kids’ issues, they would find a supporter somewhere else and more probably on wrong places like the internet. Discuss the child predators and the tactics they use to trap kids. It would either make your kids attentive or in case your kid knows such trapper, she would get opportunities to discuss her secrets with you.
Place Computers Somewhere Visible
Do not provide computers to your kids in their private rooms instead place the computer at a central location from where you could keep eyes on your kids’ computer use. It will prevent kids from communicating with strangers or get engaged in an inappropriate behavior. Also, keep tabs on the mobile phone use of your children.
Do not Allow Using Age-Inappropriate Apps
There are numerous dangerous social media and instant messaging apps that let the predators communicate with adolescents keeping their identity hide. Among these apps are Kik Messenger, Tinder, Ask.fm, Whisper, YikYak and others. Be aware what type of mobile apps your kid is using and what are the risks attached to them.
Set Time Limits for Mobile and Computer Use
Do not allow your kids sticking to their phones and computers for long or communicating with their buddies or being online late at night. There are parental control apps that let you control the screen time of your kids. The less time your kids will spend online, the less likely they would be to expose to online predators.
The mobile phone and computer monitoring software let parents keep tabs on their kids’ mobile phone and computer use. You can secretly and remotely read your kids online and offline conversations; listen to their calls; track their GPS location; monitor their emails and social media accounts; monitor the internet use; monitor their surroundings and follow them no matter where they are and when. It will let you know if your kid is in contact with a predator or any other cyber danger.
The Bottom Line
There are two things that can save your kids’ life: strong parent-kid bonding and monitoring. A strong parent-kid relation will not make your kid feel lonely, isolated and unvalued. When they would find a friend in their parents, they would share their experiences and moments with parents rather than with social media friends or a predator. Meanwhile, monitoring will help you track your kids’ online and offline activities and almost everything they are engaged in. It will help you sense dangers before time and take measures to control the situation.