Internet Safety – A Parent’s Guide

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One of the single most important things you can do for your children is to protect them from the pedophiles and predators on the internet. Unfortunately, the same advances in technology and communication that have created web 2.0 and all of the social networking has also created a breeding ground for sexual predators. These very sick individuals are on the same popular internet medium that our children are on.

There are people (lots of them) that have but one intention and that is to sexually exploit children using the internet. Some of the people will prey on children who seem to lack attention, affection, or kindness. Gradually they will go from being friendly to attempting to sexually seduce their targets. To give you an idea of how sick these individuals are; many will devote countless hours to learning everything that is “in or popular ” for that age group. They will put forth there time, money and energy in attempts to have a sexual encounter with a child. They will attempt to become the child’s best friend, listening to their problems and consoling them. They will know the latest music trends, hobbies and interests of kids. They will set up fake MySpace and FaceBook accounts all in an attempt to fit in. These individuals attempt to gradually lower children’s inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations.

There is another group of predatators that immediately attempt to engage in sexual talk with children. Some have the primary goal of collecting pornographic images; others aggressively push for face to face meetings with their online contact. It is important to remember that computer-sex offenders can be of any age, race, or sex and they do not discriminate. There victims range from infants to young adults.

The information below was prepared by the FBI and further resources may be obtained through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This is great information and is a must read for all parents, grandparents and guardian’s.

What Kind of Signs Should Be Looked At As Indicators That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?

  • Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.

Statistics show that children who spend large amounts of unsupervised time on-line, especially in chat rooms are most likely to fall victim to a online sexual predator. So ask yourself how much time do your kids spend online? Do you know where they go and what they do? In many cases latchkey kids are more at risk, parents tell them to stay at home after school. To burn time they go online to chat or IM friends. l. In some cases these children will also go in search of sexually explicit information. Lets be honest, this age group is curious about sex and in a sort of exploratory phase. The pedophiles know this and they prey on these children.

The greatest risk to children is during the evening hours; the internet can be dangerous 24/7 but activity is much greater in the late evening hours. As a parent periodically check the computer for any new file downloads. Often times pornography is used in the victimization of children. It is common for sex offenders to supply potential victims with pornography; this is their attempt to open up discussions involving sex. It may also be used to attempt to show children that sex between them and an adult is OK or normal. may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is “normal.” Again, search new files and downloads for strange activity.

  • Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.

Children may be hesitant to give out a phone number or contact information, but the predator is quick to do so. Be on the lookout for long distance calls that you don’t recognize. Check your caller-id regularly to make sure that you don’t see phone numbers that don’t ring a bell. In addition, look for things such as 800 numbers dialed or collect phone calls to numbers that look strange.

  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.

How does your child react upon you surprising them at the computer. Does he quickly turn the computer monitor off or shield the screen. If so, this is a potential problem that needs your immediate attention.
A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.

  • Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.

Even if you don’t subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend’s house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.

  • What Should You Do If You Suspect Your Child Is Communicating With A Sexual Predator On-line?

You should communicate openly and honestly with your child about your concerns. Explain to them the dangers of communicating with offenders. Review and save anything you may find on your child’s computer; if you don’t know how to do this, confiscate the entire computer and hold it until someone can check it over.

Use caller id to determine who is calling your child or who he/she is contacting. There are services available on both the internet and phone that allow parents to block children from accessing certain types of sites or making phone calls. You can also have the phone company help you set up a caller reject feature to disallow calls from certain numbers.

Remember to regularly monitor your child’s online habits, this means all types of electronic communications including, chat, instant messages, email, social networks, etc. Computer-sex offenders almost always meet potential victims via chat rooms. After meeting a child on-line, they will continue to communicate electronically often via e-mail.

Consider investing a in hidden camera to capture what your child is doing when you are not around. This is for their benefit and safety. It could potentially save there life.

Should any of the following situations arise in your household, via the Internet or on-line service, you should immediately contact your local or state law enforcement agency, the FBI, and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.