Keeping children safe is a little more challenging than in years past. The Internet has changed the way we live. It has made the world a much smaller place. It is full of information and wonderful sites that teach and entertain. It is also providing an opportunity for potential child molesters to reach children like never before. The guy hanging around the park or school does still happen, but pedophiles have found anonymity online.
According to the FBI, there are an estimated 50,000 predators online at any given moment, all looking for potential victims.
We must also remember that “online” is much more than spending time on the computer. Now smart phones and even video games are completely connected to the outside world. Parents must understand that if the ability exists for communication with children, predators are there.
When establishing contact with a child, some predators will very quickly turn to sexually explicit talk, maybe even trying to send or receive pornographic images. However, just as in the real world, predators online will usually try to build a relationship with a potential victim. They may pretend to be a girl or boy of a similar age to the child they are approaching. Online predators are usually very good at communicating with children in a manner that makes kids feel comfortable. They provide an open ear and if there are existing issues between the child and his or her parents, the predators will try to drive a further wedge to enhance the problems and gain more intimate access to the child.
Look at it this way… there are over 3 billion people online around the world. As a parent, would you allow your child to roam around a city of 3 billion people… unsupervised? When possible you should try to make sure you know what your kids are doing online. That being said, with technology comes the realization that we must educate our kids with the knowledge and skill sets to help them make the best decisions possible… both in the real world and the virtual one.
In a Dept. of Justice Report from 2003:
- 1 in 7 kids, 10 to 17 years old, were sexually solicited online
- 70% of these solicitations happen on a home computer with the remaining most often happening at a friend’s home.
- 49% of the children surveyed did not tell anyone about being solicited. (main reason given for not telling… “I was afraid they would take my computer away”)
Talk to your kids about the dangers that exist online and make sure they know to tell you if anyone ever makes them feel uncomfortable. Make sure they know it is not their fault if someone reaches out to them and they won’t get in trouble when they tell you about it.
If you would like to report an issue or suspect inappropriate behavior, you can make a report to the Cyber Tip Line. The Cyber Tip Line has received over 2.2 million reports since 1998.