It is estimated that 1 in 4 children online or on social media will be approached sexually by a stranger. These abusers are adept at manipulation and grooming, and take time to win a child's confidence before commiting the abuse.
What can you do to prevent your child from becoming a victim?
Most online activity is harmless or even positive for young people. But adults who want to exploit them can use the Internet to try to locate and "groom" potential victims. You can minimize the risk of a young person meeting an online predator with some simple steps:
Consider When Your Child Can Go Online.
If you decide to let your child have an online profile or personal web page, your decision should be based on their age and maturity. Keep in mind that Facebook and Twitter don't accept members under the age of 13. Utilize Privacy Settings.
One of the best ways to protect your child and their privacy is to use a website's privacy settings to control access to their profile page. Social networking sites often make changes to their privacy settings, so check frequently for changes or updates to the settings.
Monitor and Guide Online Behavior.
An adult who is looking for a young person to exploit will be drawn to a profile with entries or photos that show an interest in sex. A sexy profile and a willingness to talk about sex online with strangers are warning signs that require parental action. These online behaviors are much more likely to lead to sexual solicitation than posting personal information online. Monitor Messaging.
Email, instant messages, texts... all of these can be used by young people to communicate immediately and secretly. Youngsters also use abbreviations to save keystrokes and keep parents in the dark. Take Care of Photographs and Cameras.
Computers make it easy to send and share photographs, but it should be done carefully. Parents should monitor the use of digital cameras, cameraphones and webcams, which can be misused by young people. Place Computer in a Common Area.
Place your computer in a central room of the house with the screen facing out so you can see it easily. Develop a list of family rules for using the Internet and post it next to the computer. Keep Screen Names Anonymous.
Information in a screen names can be used to identify a child. Make sure that your child's screen name does not include personal information such as real name, home address or school name.
Access Your Child's Email.
Experts recommend that parents share an email account with their young child or maintain access to their child's email account and check it frequently.
Remind Kids that Computer Use is Not Confidential.
Young people want to be treated as adults and may feel entitled to privacy. But they shouldn’t expect that everything they do on a computer is personal and confidential. And computers aren't the only way kids go online. You'll also need to keep an eye on how they use mobile devices such as phones and gaming systems.
Some parents might feel that it is intrusive to monitor their child's online activities, but a computer is different from a diary or a journal. A journal contains private thoughts that aren’t communicated to others. But emails, Facebook posts, Tweets, You Tube videos, online journals and instant messaging are an open window to your child's life, carrying information to and from your home.