No parent wants their children to fall victim to online sexual predators. But we cannot just stand there, pray and hope for the best. We have to be active! It’s never been too late to teach your children signs of groomers as long as you allow them to go online!!

Therefore, we need to teach our children to recognize the tactics of online sexual predators and to know when the predator acts.

To effectively teach your children, first, you need to have a clear understanding of online grooming, how to recognize the tactics of online sexual predators, how to talk with your children smoothly about this, etc. This article will show you how 😉

What is online grooming?

Online grooming is when a person tries to build emotional relationships with your children for sexual purposes. Online grooming usually happens on social media platforms and gaming sites.

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Not only Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat, but websites – such as Xbox, Stream, Discord, Twitch, and Roblox – are also a threat because of the built-in chat rooms. Predators can move to Kik or Telegram for greater privacy.

Who are the victims of online sexual predators?

All ages can be targets for criminals. 

However, children, teenagers, and young adults are particularly easy targets for online sexual predators because they are young, naive, and yet to fully understand the seriousness of the world out there. So the predators can easily trick, manipulate and intimidate the victim.

As young people and teenagers who are looking for ways to connect and make friends with others online, they can accept friend requests indiscriminately, enjoy flattering comments, etc. groomers can take advantage of these behaviors.

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The part of the brain responsible for decision-making and critical thinking of children or adolescents is still developing, so young people may not recognize lies and will be easily manipulated.

How do groomers attack your children?

  1. Groomers use fake profiles to connect and build trust with children on social media or gaming sites.
  2. They build connections by giving compliments on your children (appearance, personality, etc.), pretending to listen to their problems, frequently talking to them, showing great care to them, etc.
  3. Once they have successfully built trust, they may encourage your children to:
    • Exchange sexually explicit images/videos
    • Livestream while being nude
    • Engage in online sex roles/conversations 
    • Meet in real life and have sex with children
    • Achieve some financial goals (they may use children’s sensitive content to trade to others)

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Signs of groomers 

The NCMEC report summarizes the ways that sexual attackers often target children:

  • Involving children into sex-related conversations or role-playing with sex-related characters
  • Ask children to take and send sensitive pictures/videos of themselves
  • Develop a positive relationship with your child by praising your child’s appearance and body, and discussing what both of you have in common or take actions that show interest/empathy, “like” and comment on their child’s social media posts, etc.

Teach kids about the dangers of the Internet

  • Sexual attackers send their own pornographic images to children
  • Pretending to be younger than your child, possibly by lying and sometimes through perjury when registering for an online account
  • Ask the children to exchange pictures back and forth in exchange for accomplishing their goal such as money, gift cards, etc.; promise to buy children something they like; even alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and other necessities such as lodging, transportation, or food.

How can I protect children from online grooming?

Understand your children’s online behaviors

Discuss with your children 3 basic questions:

  • Where they usually interact with their friends
  • How do they connect and communicate with others?
  • What information (personal information, images, videos) do they usually share with others?

How do I talk to my child about online grooming? Explain why groomers pretend and how they target your children

You can use the information we mentioned above to better explain what groomers/sexual predators are to your children.

Being a user of the Internet has never been so easy, your children can never know a true person behind that Facebook profile. It can be an avatar of a teenage boy but it’s actually a 50 years old man.

It’s never been too late to teach your children signs of groomers as long as you allow them to go online!!

Explain digital footprints to them

These are the traces of things your child leaves behind when they go online.

Everything they post will remain forever online even when they delete it afterward, once you have commented, posted anything, it will be forever on the Internet and be traceable.

It is similar to sending nude/explicit photos to others. The other person will keep and share the image even if they promise not to do that. The photos will be shared widely and stay forever on the Internet.

This can leave disastrous effects on your children’s mental health, reputation, and even future career possibilities.

unwanted contact and grooming

Social media privacy 

One of the most important tips on how to keep your child safe is on social media. You should ask your child to make their social media accounts private or modify their privacy settings so they can control who can see their photos and posts.

By adjusting privacy settings, they can limit information online to only the people they know.

Here are some tips for your children:

  • Only accept friend requests from people they do know. It isn’t always better to have lots of friends.
  • Limit sharing personal information on social media: full name, age, address, mobile phone, school name. If they share, make it only accessible to friends and family.
  • Set Instagram or Snapchat accounts to private to limit strangers seeing your children’s images and videos.

Create an environment where your child can share anything with you they feel unsafe online

A good relationship is the starting point for all. One of the best ways to protect children from online predators.

Build an intimate sharing environment between children and parents, discuss with children about sensitive issues such as two friends, and children are both more receptive and trusting in you.

Let your kids know that it’s safe to confide in you if they have questions or concerns – or even if they’ve done something bad about it. Don’t be afraid or overreact because you only make them quiet.

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