Most children and teens are more connected to the virtual world than ever before, which has both positive and negative consequences. Two negative consequences are children and teens being exposed to sexual content they may not be ready for and children and teens being vulnerable to online sexual predators.
Some points to consider about online predators:
- Online predators often find children and teens on teen fad websites. Parents may feel that their children are safe because they have put controls on and then they let their guard down. Some examples of sites that predators may be are: a Twilight website, a Disney website, a new Direction website, a Justin Bieber website or an online gaming forum. These are just a few examples to give you the basic idea; really any place younger teens and children may be drawn to.
- Some online predators will pretend to be a teen themselves, some will not. If they are pretending to be a teen they may go as far as creating a Facebook profile to make themselves seem like real teens.
- Children and teens most often give information or meet willingly. The online predator may not ask for a sexual photo right away, but may build an emotional connection over a few weeks or months. Though any teen can be a victim a teen that is not getting their emotional or social needs met and is looking to meet those needs online may be especially vulnerable.
- The two types of online sexual predators are those who have the ultimate goal to meet the teen and those who are content to collect and trade child pornographic images.
Some suggestions to protect your child:
- Not allowing any internet access is usually a bad idea and may backfire. Instead try limiting and monitoring their internet use. It is a good idea to have the computer in a place where you can observe them spontaneously. Limit the use of internet time to teach them balance in life.
- Teach your child not to put too much information on the internet and how to create some level of privacy. This can include not accepting every friendship request they get on Facebook.
- Encourage age appropriate dating and social activities. Make sure your teens aren’t getting most or all of their social needs met online, even if it is with people they know.
- Finally teach children and teens appropriate and inappropriate sexual boundaries and who they can talk to if someone violates them, whether it is on the internet or in person. This is an important conversation to have. Keep in mind that despite all the articles you read about sexual predators it is far more likely that your child we be abused by someone they know then by a total stranger.
Read the story of a 13 year-old in Ogden:
The Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety from the FBI: