No parent wants their child to fall victim to online sexual predators. But we cannot just pray and hope for the best. 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 child, you first need to have a clear understanding of online sexual predators and this article will show you how to protect kids from online sexual predators.
What are online sexual predators?
Crimes committed by online criminals are increasing and tend to be more aggressive. As explained by the U.S. National Strategy for the Prevention and Prevention of Child Exploitation:
Sextortion is a growing type of online sexual exploitation in which offenders coerce or blackmail victims into providing sexually explicit images or videos of themselves, often (with)… threats of posting the images publicly or sending the images to the victim’s friends and family.
The results of the 2016 National Strategy survey indicate that sextortion is by far the most significantly growing threat to children.
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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. Furthermore, predators move game chats to Facebook Messenger, Kik and Skype for greater privacy.
Victims of online sexual predators
All ages can be targets for criminals. But 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.
In addition, young people and teenagers who are looking for ways to connect and make friends with others online, to “like” their pictures and to become more famous online are also often targeted.
Furthermore, the cyber world has become a popular place to start a friendship or a dating relationship. Online sexual predators take advantage of the way young people use social networks, such as accepting friend requests indiscriminately, enjoying flattering comments.
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 manipulated right away. They lack the life experience to distinguish dishonesty from manipulation.
Therefore, once you understand why children and teenagers are easy targets for online sexual predators, parents need to be extra vigilant and take some steps below to protect and teach their children: about online sexual predators.
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How to protect children from online sexual predators?
Create a friendly environment where your child can discuss and chat with you
A good relationship is the starting point for it all.
Have intimate conversations with your child about gender issues and Internet risks, and explain to them how they will affect them. Why should you be intimate? These things your child can fully access at school in theory, but they are often inherently dry, so, as a friend, show your child friendliness.
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 if they’ve done something bad about it. Don’t be afraid or overreact because then parents can make the child not open up.
Teach your children about the dangers of the Internet
During development, the adolescent brain is naturally inclined to pursue risk, which can be either good or bad. When used properly, healthy risks help teens become independent and pursue successful careers. On the other hand, risk can be dangerous and destructive, especially when coupled with a tendency for teenagers to feel invincible and impulsive.
In addition, technology can distort reality and make a child think they are more mature, stronger, more anonymous online, and more connected than they really are. These factors increase the likelihood of taking risks and hence dangerous behaviors.
Teach your kids about the threat of online sexual predators. You can ask your child a few questions, such as:
- Do you know kids at school who have been contacted by someone suspicious?
- Has anyone ever sent a child a pornographic picture?
- Has anyone ever asked your child to send sexually explicit pictures?
- What do you think about this issue?
Teach your child about addiction
The danger in the world of technology is the amount of dopamine produced when exposed to sexually related and erotic images. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is essential in our neural communication system, helping us stay motivated and predict rewards among other things.
It is triggered by sexual imagery and behavior similar to taking drugs. This means that it initiates the process of attracting attractiveness and pursuing risk. This increase in reward dopamine can be overwhelming and addictive.
One of the ways to limit the negative development of dopamine is to limit the access to pornography to your child. You can use online content filtering software to detect and hide inappropriate, pornographic content, helping your children use the Internet safer.
Watch out for warning signs
You should know and understand the following potential warning signs of an online sexual predator prepare for abuse and look out for these in your child:
- Sudden mood swings: Your child has unusual behaviors such as changes in sleeping patterns, changes in attitudes such as irritability and rebellion, increased attention to appearance, loss of interest in activities they used to be sudden excitement, stress and anxiety, quitting sports or extracurricular activities…
- Isolation from close friends and family members
- Weight changes or sudden interest in dieting
- The rapid change in outlook on life
- Being secretive (sneaking out at night, truanting from school or work, asking for alone time in a room with their device)
- Sexual behavior (use of birth control, have provocative eye contact and actions)
Teach your kids about digital footprints
These are the traces of things your child leaves behind when they go online. Everything you post is public whether you delete the post or not, once you have commented, posted anything, it will be forever on the Internet and be traceable.
It is similar to sending nude photos of your child to others. You can explain that the other person will keep and share the image even if they promise not to. The photos never go away.
Anyone who asks your kids to take off their clothes wants to enjoy those nude photos more like they care about your child’s well-being.
Protect your child but don’t be too controlling
Your child has a right to privacy, and so does the virtual world. Instead of constantly monitoring your child’s screen, sneaking in his messages… you should talk more openly with your child, clearly communicating about the risks and dangers on the Internet that they should avoid.
Besides, to better protect your children in the online world, you should use an online content filtering tool to detect and block 15 types of harmful content on the Internet, including:
- Horror content like gore, accidents, ghosts, violence, murder, terrorism, etc
- Content about stimulants, addictive substances such as alcohol, beer, marijuana, drugs, etc
- Content with aggressive elements, hurting others like Hate speech
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