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Online Sexual Predators
Instant messaging on the computer has become the phone for kids today. Children spend hours online chatting with their friends, and sometimes with strangers. A recent study found that one in five children online is contacted by a sexual predator, a predator who may try to set up a face-to-face meeting.
· Predators have turned to the Internet to find their victims. By hiding in chat rooms, and participating in online conversations, online predators have the ability to disguise their identities. A 35-year-old man may pose as a 12-year-old girl, or a single mother in a chat room may actually be a married man.
· Predators are very good at extracting information. Many people, adults and children alike, inadvertently provide information about themselves to predators.
· Predators form relationships with their victims. In some cases it takes several months. By the time the predator suggests meeting, the unsuspecting and trusting victim agrees to meet, sometimes never to be seen again.
Even casual conversations can get a child into trouble without knowing it. An online conversation can go like this:
Poohbear105: We won our softball game today!
Dillan955: Congratulations! Which team do you play for?
Poohbear105: I play for the Jonestown Wildcats.
Dillan955: Ok, my team is Centerville Sluggers, I play second base
Poohbear105: I play 3rd base
Dillan955: We haven’t started playing yet it’s too cold here in northeastern PA
Poohbear105: I hate the cold so glad I live in FL
Dillan955: I can’t wait Tuesday is our first game
Poohbear105: Good! I also have a game on Tuesday
Poohbear doesn’t make it but she just told Dillan what town she lives in and where she’ll be next Tuesday. She also told him what team she plays for and what position. It is quite simple to find out the game schedule. Puhbear might have a visitor at her next game.
Most children know more about the Internet than their parents. This knowledge leaves parents in the dark about their children’s online activities. As shown in the statistics below, parental supervision in cyberspace is dangerously lax:
· 20% of parents do not monitor their children’s internet usage at all.
· Only 52% of parents moderately monitor their children’s internet use.
· About 62% of teenagers report that their parents know little or nothing about their Internet activities.
· 71% of all parents stop monitoring their child’s internet usage after the child turns 14, not knowing that 72% of all missing children related to the Internet are 15 years or older.
Internet predators take advantage of the lack of responsible adult supervision of children using the Internet.
Your child may be in contact with an Internet predator if he or she shows any of the following warning signs:
· Downloads photos of strangers
· Downloads pornographic images
· Is very secretive about online activities and the people he or she talks to
· Quickly shuts down the computer or switches programs when someone enters the room
· Receives unusual phone calls or gifts or letters in the mail
· Spends countless hours on the computer and his or her school grades have dropped
· Spends uncontrolled time in chat rooms
· Uses online accounts you don’t recognize or uses multiple email addresses
· Visits websites dealing with death, destruction or other morbid topics
· Wait until other family members are asleep or out of the home before going online
The key is to monitor your child’s Internet activity. Make sure you and your child know what to look out for on the Internet. Remember, because of the anonymity offered by the Internet, people you meet online may not be who they claim to be. Encourage your children to never share personal information about themselves on the Internet.
Parents can protect their children by doing the following:
· Become familiar with the web browser your children use and limit the type of content (violence, sex and language) they can view.
· Create a password that will allow only you to control the computer’s Internet settings, Internet content, and installable software.
· Do not allow your child to have multiple email accounts or create accounts without your knowledge. You can insist that your children give you their email and chat passwords. Online accounts and primary screen names should be in your name.
· Do not allow your children to chat (send Instant Messages) during homework computer time.
· Emphasize that dangerous pederasts use the anonymity offered by the Web to lure their victims.
· Encourage your children to create screen names and emails that do not reveal their personal information (name, age, school, etc.).
· Establish some Rules for Safe Online Surfers. Review the rules with your child, and post them next to your computer.
· Online with your kids and find out who they send Instant Messages to and/or chat with. Ban the use of private chat rooms as well as adults.
· If you cannot establish yourself as the administrator of your computer, then someone else has been designated as the administrator. If the administrator is your child, you can recover your computer with your child’s user ID and password. Once you become the new administrator, you can control the online content and websites your child has access to.
· Install an operating system that makes you the administrator (eg Windows XP or Mac OS X).
· Keep the computer in the family room so you can monitor their internet use.
· Make sure you know the identity of everyone in their contact and/or buddy lists.
· Make sure your child knows never to reveal personal information on the Internet (eg, name, age, photos, gender, physical description, phone number, address, etc.).
· Set rules about what websites your children are allowed to visit and which they are not. Enforce these rules, and set time limits for their computer use.
· Emphasize that the rules you set are to protect them, not to control them.
· Tell your children that you have the right to monitor their computer use and that if you suspect there is a problem, you will randomly monitor their Internet activities.
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