With our children growing up today as "digital natives" accustomed to using information technologies on various platforms, it's an unfortunate reality that there are also predators lurking who seek to cause them harm. With access to the internet, your child is just a few keystrokes away from running into danger - so how exactly can we keep our kids safe online?
While pedophiles are certainly a threat parents should watch out for, many online predators are typically opportunistic perpetrators who will come across children in risky online areas. As a guide from NetSmartz points out:
Online predators do not fit any one mold or stereotype; seemingly upstanding citizens have been caught enticing children for sexual acts. Contrary to popular belief, most online predators are not pedophiles. Pedophiles target pre-pubescent children, while online predators typically target adolescents who engage in risky online behavior.
So one of the most important steps you can take is to ensure your child is not entering inappropriate sites or social media networks where they're likely to get into trouble.
Here are some key points to protect your child from predators online:
- NEVER let your child meet anyone, even another child, without your checking out the situation and vigilant supervision.
- Know in general what your child is up to online - the kinds of sites they visit and who they're communicating with (this goes for cell phones as well).
- Teach your child that anyone who talks about sex online, even in seemingly joking fashion, should not be communicated with. Make sure your child knows to refrain from such subjects in any social media forum.
- Ask questions if you notice any suspicious behavior from your child. Also, make sure your child knows it's okay to ask questions of you if they need help in a situation. Let them know you're always there for them.
- Approve all the photos and videos your child would post online. Check and be sure that they don't contain inappropriate sexual content, and also be sure that your child's privacy settings are adequate on social media to avoid sharing personal information.
- Trust your gut and watch out for warning signs. If you feel that your child is in danger, contact your local law enforcement immediately. You should also file a report to Cyber TipLine here.