With the technological advances in our current society, the internet has become a prime place where sexual predators can lure children and teens into dangerous situations. Using chat rooms, email, and instant messaging can put a child at risk to encounter a sexual predator. The internet also allows for a shroud of secrecy, in which predators can lie about who they are to pacify a child or teen into a false sense of security, quickly building trust. Parents and their children need to work together to protect against online predators.
How Can Parents Protect Their Kids from Online Predators?
- Talk to your kids about potential online dangers. Just as you would tell a child not to give out personal information to a stranger on the street, tell them that they should never give out personal information online.
- Use parental control software that monitors your child's online activity and allows you to choose what they can view on the internet.
- Monitor your children's use of social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook. Regularly check their profile to make sure no personal information is posted and to assure they are talking to people they know.
- If your children use chat rooms, make sure you know which ones they are using and who they are talking to. Check the content of the conversations in those chat rooms to make sure it is appropriate.
- Keep the home computer in a common area of the house, so the computer screen is easily visible. A predator trying to lure a child will have a much more difficult time with a parent watching the comments on the computer screen.
- Tell your kids never to respond to instant messaging or emails from strangers.
- If your children use computers at friend's houses, the public library, their school, or other areas find out what the safety guards are on those computers.
- Make sure there are established rules if your children decide they want to meet someone from online in person. Tell your children that you have to accompany them and that the meeting place must be a very public area.
How Can Kids Protect Themselves from Online Predators?
Give your children the following rules:
- Never download images from an unknown source or someone you have met online.
- Tell an adult immediately if anything occurs online that makes you feel frightened or uncomfortable.
- Never reveal personal information about yourself or your family online. Don't include personal information on your profile for social networking sites.
- Stop all communication with any online stranger who starts asking questions which are personal or sexually suggestive.
- Never agree to meet someone you have met online in person, without choosing a very public meeting place and having a parent or guardian accompany you.