Young people use the internet to communicate with each other. They use social media sites or messaging apps to stay in touch with their friends or meet new people. These types of apps are the perfect place for online predators to connect with children. Even apps designed for children can pose a threat. That’s why it is important for parents and kids to know the risks and signs of a potential online predator.
The most effective way parents can protect their children from online predators is to educate and communicate. When parents and children know how to identify potential risks, they can act quickly and prevent dangerous situations. It’s also important for parents to establish an open line of communication with their children to alert them of suspicious activity.
How to Recognize Online Predators
Children are less likely to become targets for online predators when they know how to identify them.
Randomly Initiating Conversation
Be wary when an unknown person randomly messages your child that should be the first warning sign. They often do their homework and may say they are a friend of another friend.
Being Overly Nice
Online predators will use flattery or compliments to gain the trust of minors. They will offer a listening ear and be highly agreeable. They may even offer to buy gifts or send money.
Ask for Personal Information
They will ask for personal information like their name, address, and the school they attend. They may even ask the child to send photos of themselves.
Online predators may use inappropriate or sexual language in their conversations. They may also send inappropriate links, photos, or videos.
Ask for Privacy
They will try to isolate targets from their friends and family, asking that they not tell anyone about their relationship. Predators will ask to take conversations in private chat rooms, messages, or phone calls.
Ask to Meet in Person
They may ask a child to meet them in person.
What to do if Your Child Encounters an Online Predator
If your child encounters an online predator they should let an adult know immediately. It’s important for parents to remember that their child’s safety and well-being in the number one priority. It may be very embarrassing or difficult for the child to discuss the details of the encounter, so be gracious.
Ask the Child for Details
It may be difficult for them to share but the more information you have the better you can address the situation.
Questions to ask:
- When did the communication start?
- Does anyone else know about the conversations?
- What information did you share with them, including pictures?
Take screenshots, save chats, and gather as much evidence as possible before deleting them.
Block the Person
Block the person’s account and report their account on the platform.
Contact the Authorities
Call your local police, especially if your child is in immediate danger. Report the predator to the CyberTipline at 1-800-THE-LOST or www.CyberTipline.org.
Keep Kids Safe
In addition to educating children about the dangers of online predators, parents should also monitor their child’s online activity. There are many great parental control apps that include monitoring for online threats.