The internet, a global tool that keeps people connected, has also become an easy access point for online predators. They typically hide their identities or pretend to be someone else and prey on children they meet online. Online predators lure children into sexual conversations over multiplayer video games, chat apps, or social media platforms. They commonly appear to be friendly and use flattery to start a conversation and gain trust. These offenders may not necessarily contact your child, but the danger does exist.
To keep children safe from online predators, here are some precautionary measure you can take:
1. Warn about the dangers of chat rooms
These offenders commonly make connections with children by inviting them to chat rooms for private conversations. It is crucial to warn children to never chat privately with people they do not know. Regardless if they think these people appear to be very kind and innocent, tell them to never engage in any online interaction.
2. Warn your child about online dating
Predators often use suggestive screen names and photos to get attention. They would start flirty conversations that often appear to be exciting but escalate into something uncomfortable or abusive. They look for children who are willing to talk dirty and share private photos. Once predators manage to pull children into these types of conversation or relationship, it may become more challenging to stop. Therefore, it’s often feasible to discourage such conversations from the get-go.
3. Tell children that people are not always who they say they are
Predators find it easy to pretend to be teens or kids to catch unsuspecting children online. They will create profiles with fake pictures and match them with details to appear highly convincing. Once they find a victim, they seem to be very nice and would try to arrange an in-person meeting.
4. Consider monitoring your child’s online activities
This may not necessarily mean spying on your children, but if the need arises, you may want to consider installing software to keep track of their online activities. Warn them not to agree on meeting invitation from strangers, especially without your knowledge or permission as it could be dangerous. Also, consider other safety rules by telling them not to post phone numbers, addresses, and other personal details about themselves or family members.
Qustodio (Paid) and Kaspersky Safe Kids (Paid and Free versions) are a couple of good ones to try out.
5. Set up parental controls on all devices
Parental control settings are highly effective and can help reduce the risk of children encountering inappropriate content online. Setting parental controls through internet service providers is an easy option to manage and limit what children can access across all devices at home, including your children's smartphones, gaming consoles, and social networks. This way, you can manage what your children can search online, set specific time limits, and control or block programs or games they can access.
Remember, that once children are active online, they are at risk of being contacted by online predators. It is recommended to have discussions with children on how to properly use social media platforms and keep them informed about the dangers of online interactions.
Blog Research Assistant:
Maria Elisa Mendoza