From the time that kids can walk and talk, parents embark on the seemingly endless yet necessary mission to keep them safe. Children are bombarded with advice and instruction to ensure their safety and good health. These instructions include looking both ways before crossing the street, staying out of the puddles on those rainy days, and of course the most popular: “Don’t talk to strangers.” Unfortunately, the FBI reports that one in five children who are online receive a sexual solicitation each year because, while in a chat room, children don’t know for sure whom they are talking with.
One recent report cited that nine out of ten children between the ages of eight and sixteen have viewed pornographic images on the Internet. In many of these cases, the sex sites were accessed unintentionally when a child, often in the process of doing research for school, keyed what they thought were innocent words that led them to a very unhealthy world. For example: if doing research on our president and the government, whitehouse.gov is the correct web address, while whitehouse.com is an entirely different location for adults only. I know a police officer who was online with his very young daughter who was looking for information on her favorite Disney movie. He never imaged that keying Beauty and the Beast would take him--and his very attentive little girl--to a very bizarre place.
It is truly difficult to avoid these addresses. A new web site appears every 17 seconds, with more than 4,000 new sites being registered every day. Today, at least 100 of those new sites will be selling or displaying pornography. Unfortunately, this wave of entrepreneurship brings with it a whole breed of predators and outright creeps.
Right now, somewhere in America, a thirteen-year-old girl has joined a chat room through a popular social site. It seems harmless enough as the room is titled something like “Girls 13 to 15 Rule.” She can see many of the participants chat about school, classes, the latest movies, etc. She hits it off with a girl who shares similar interests, and after a while she will be invited to enter into a private chat where no one else can view the conversation. What isn’t readily known is that not all are girls 13 to 19. There are 30, 40 and 50 year old men who use these chat rooms to seek out their quarry. They gain the trust of these unsuspecting victims by posing as young girls and boys. The predators will tell children what they need and want to hear. They are masters of manipulation knowing just what button to push in these kids.
With all of the bad guys out there, there are few things that you can do to protect your children online:
Limit internet access to only one room of your home where activity can be monitored. In most cases of online child luring, the parents did not know that their child was conversing with others.
If kids are connected to a social network, know who their online friends are.
Limit the time that children are online.
Become familiar with and look out for on-screen internet slang that your child is typing, such as POS which actually means Parent Over Shoulder, or PIR meaning Parent In Room. To learn most of these codes, just look up “Internet Slang.”
Watch for out of town packages or gifts sent to your child. These are often tools such as digital cameras used by predators to gain photos, etc.
Being aware can save your family and your children!