Because of their naivety and innocence, children can be prey to sexual predators online. Protecting them in the physical world becomes second nature to their parents and families. Everyone knows what to do to avoid dangerous situations in real life, but sometimes parents need a crash course in combating predators in their children’s virtual lives. The purpose of my research is to show ways to detect threats in chat rooms, install website blocking software, and defeat sexual deviants who view our children as prey.
The laws that are in place to prosecute child predators are being written, strengthened, and enforced as new ways of committing crimes and enticing children are devised. Lawmakers, as well as citizens may have been ignorant of the reality of these awful, lascivious crimes until now. Online child sexual predators were thrust into the mainstream by the television program “To Catch a Predator“. It is an investigative reality show produced by Dateline NBC. A lot of these sexual liaisons are arranged in chat rooms because they are a wonderful place for kids to meet, connect with, and socialize with their friends from both real life and virtual life. Unfortunately, among the friendly screen names lurk nefarious people looking to cause harm to children in the chat room innocently chatting along unsuspecting of the snake in the grass. That snake can take many forms; it usually starts out being sweet, friendly, caring and understanding towards their target, seeking to gain the trust and friendship of the child. Then it starts to get more personal as a way of becoming more integrated into the victim’s life, and even try to cause a rift between the child and his or her parents to isolate the kid. They can suck them in even deeper, and before the parents even know it it’s too late. A sound strategy to deal with this is to monitor their chat room activities, know who they talk to and what they talk about, and what chat rooms they frequent. I’m not saying you have to stalk them or invade their privacy, but being active and involved in their online life, as well as making sure not to forbid them from chatting online because that will only help to push them farther away from you and closer to the arms of the predator. Be open minded, and talk freely with them about their daily chat conversations so they know you don’t object, at same time you will know if any red flags pop up, and your kid will be happy that they can share information with you without being judged or intensely questioned. These strategies will help you to ensure their safety, and help ease your own mind as well.
Chat rooms are far from the only threat that children face while surfing the internet. The advent of social networking has expanded your child’s social life from their local neighborhood, to the entire globe in the few clicks of the mouse. The threats there are similar to the chat room ones, and are dealt with using much of the same strategies. Making sure they, and you, know who they are adding as friends, as well as ensuring their privacy settings are correctly configured, and making sure they don’t post any personal information of any kind on their page anywhere, and telling them not to respond to any chat messages from any unknown sources will make a huge difference, and will allow you to allow them to continue using the site to safely keep in touch with friends and family.
Children are not the only ones networking though. There is a deep underground of predatory people who seek gratification at the expense of defenseless children. The perverts and predators operate right under parent’s noses and the threat could not be more real or more dangerous. As much as cops, experts, and parents network to spread the dangers, the criminals do just the same to spread the defenses we use to rise against them. Keeping your eyes and ears open to any clues your children may be sending you to communicate that something may be bothering them. You can’t be too busy to notice them, or it will say to the child that you are not concerned with them, nor do you have time to talk to them, and those are just the openings that the predator craves.
A good majority of internet sites are legitimate, but there are copious amounts of objectionable and obscene material that they could stumble upon, so installing computer parental controls on the PC, as well as downloading and using nanny software will make it easier to deny access to certain sites and services. Parental controls can be set to different age groups and sites that allow you to restrict everything from time limit to site access. There are ways for children, especially as technology advances so rapidly, to circumvent these configurations. Knowing how to avoid these detours and underneath tunnels will keep good kids away from bad sites. These tunnels are called proxies, and they act like a middleman between your pc and the websites, so it allows the user to go around the blockades the nanny software puts up. You can use software to block proxy websites, ensuring your children cannot use them to get around your blocks. With all the offensive material that can be found online, closing all the loopholes is a great way to keep innocent eyes away from it, and only on stuff that is good for them, such as age appropriate TV shows, games, and school research.
Safeguarding Them Online
Children are apt to be persuaded into dangerous activities and decisions if not educated about the possible pitfalls they could fall into. A good way to approach this topic is during same discussion you have with them on not talking to strangers in real life situations. The threats are essentially the same, and should be handled in similar but different manners. The same rules that we were taught as kids apply online. Children need to know that strangers in person are immediate dangers, and that if one approaches them, not to talk to them for any reason, run away and into a public place if possible, and make sure to announce that the person is a stranger so passersby know that the child is in trouble, and don’t assume that the adult is a family member of the child, whereas online the danger is not immediate or as clearly defined, so the child may not know that it’s not safe for them to talk to a stranger online either. Make sure they know that if someone instant messages them, emails them, or contacts them in any other manner online that they do not know, they should tell his or her parents right away so they can take the proper steps to identify, and avoid any possible threats the person may pose to their child.
Laptops pose another threat that is not well known to some individuals, and that is that a lot of laptops have built in webcams used to video chat with people over the internet, but the danger is that people can install backdoor Trojan viruses on a child’s computer that allows them to remotely activate the webcam anywhere, anytime, they want to. The Trojan will allow the predator to watch the child through the webcam anonymously, and observe activities they should not be viewing. Keeping anti-virus software up to date, as well as teaching your children not to download anything without your approval, and also not to open emails unless you are with them is a great way to avoid that terrifying ordeal.
Knowing how a predators mind thinks will help law enforcement agencies, investigators, as well as parents know what to look out for when children are online, and how to better safeguard them from sexual deviants in cyberspace. Parents need to make sure not to allow their children to use enticing, alluring, exciting screen names and profile descriptions, due to the high probability of attracting negative attention, as well as garnering potential predator stalking them, and attempting to coerce them into a face to face meeting. There are a whole bunch of tactics, techniques, and ways for predators to stalk their prey, so being conscientious in your efforts to protect children, secure your computer, block inappropriate websites as well as making sure to approve any information the children put online will make a humongous difference in making their internet activities as safe and pure as they possibly can be.
Help and Advice for Parents
Though the dangers are manifold, so are the resources to safeguard them. As a society we must remember that children’s safety is of the utmost importance. Parents, family members, as well as educators must do whatever they have to do to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of precious innocent children so they will know how to raise their future kids to make the same wise choices their parents do. With the right amount of teaching and instruction, the children will more than likely teach their friends how to be more careful and safe when using social networking sites, chat rooms, and emailing people. Kids often use chat rooms alongside their friends, so if the children are taught well, they won’t fall victim to peer pressure from their friend to do stuff they should not be doing.
Using common sense, as well as being diligent about monitoring their PC usage and communications helps to ease your mind on their privacy. Teaching them to be careful, and not talk to strangers online or in person is of utmost importance, and it will help them to make better decisions throughout their life. Together, parents and loved ones of the child, also teachers as well as principals can show children how to be smarter, and safer. Also they will be more apt to make responsible decisions when perusing the often dangerous world-wide-web alone, or with their friends as it often the case.