Children can come across online predators every day and not realise it. Online predators are experts at gaining children’s trust and sourcing information in order to find out where they live or go to school.
So can you protect your child from online predators? The answer is YES. If you know what signs to look out for and learn typical patterns of online predators then you can minimize the risk of your child being exposed to them. You can also learn the right course of action to take if you find that your child has become the victim of an online predator.
BE SMART – We live in an integrated networked world where social media rules most individuals daily lives. Online technologies are ‘faceless’ and this is what makes them an attractive medium for predators to use. Predators know that children love chatting with friends and people online, so they use that anonymity to form relationships and build children’s trust.
Patterns of online predators
Online predators depict certain patterns in order to gain children’s trust and find out personal information about them. Be on the lookout for the following:
- Online predators search for places where children would go. With today’s technology, that means social media, chat rooms, e-mails and blogs. All these places have means of chatting with people.
- Predators will also search online profiles in order to gain personal details about their victim (such as their age, gender, school and where they live).
Online predators reach out to children by trying to gain their trust through telling them sad stories in order to get sympathy. They may also try to get affection from the children and promise to give them gifts if they continue chatting with them.
- They will learn about the child’s interests, dreams and desires and act on these in order to get the child interested in them.
- They will start being their friend then gradually lead toward sexual content in order to break down the child’s inhibitions.
How to minimise the risk of your child becoming a victim
- Communicate with your children about online predators and about the concerns that you have.
- Use parental controls on your devices in order to track what your child is doing online.
- Do not allow young children to go into chat rooms or message forums. If they are old enough and want to go in a chat room, then you must monitor the communication that takes place.
- Screen the e-mails that your child sends and receives in order to keep them safe.
- Make sure your children trust you enough to tell you if someone they are chatting to is asking for any personal information.
- Tell children not to put personal details on their social media accounts.