Predators Online

I am a 12-year-old girl who likes to chat online with my friends. Why do I need to protect my privacy? I don’t know what my mom is so worried about. My friends won’t hurt me, they like me. I don’t talk to strangers because everyone I know sends me their picture. I don’t tell my friends all of my secrets, just some to my very best friends. They won’t tell anyone, because they are my friends. When my friends ask me for my pictures, I know they want them, so I send them. Why does my mom think this is wrong?

Online PredatorsThis is the innocent 12-year-old mind accepting that everyone she chats with is her friend. And they might well be. But what about the one time she accepts someone as a friend that she really doesn’t know – an online predator.

What if that person starts asking for her personal information?

What if that person asks her to do things that she is not comfortable with?

How do we prepare our children and youth for that scenario and protect them from an online predator?

Children and youth will know that they have crossed a line, and that their parents would be upset. They may think that they will lose their computer privileges, or ‘get grounded’. How do we as adults ensure that we build that level of trust, so if our child has an ‘icky’ feeling about someone they have been chatting with, that they will know that they can come to us and tell us?

Read More: Cyber Bullying: What is it?

All too often we hear of young people who have been lured online by someone much older and often living elsewhere in the country. Some of those young people have been lured away from their homes to meet this person, thinking that they are meeting a ‘friend’. Some of these cases do not end happily.

Internet Safety For Children

This is a new age for parents as we raise children of the millennia. They are technologically wired from the time that they are in diapers and for them; the Internet has always been a part of their lives. We cannot parent as our parents did in the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s. We need to be Internet savvy. We need to have computer knowledge and some sense of the risks that are out there today.

Open any newspaper, any day of the week, and there will be an article about an ‘incident’ or a ‘tragedy’ that has occurred involving some form of technology, whether it is from a social networking site, a chat room, texting or ‘sexting’ from a cell phone interaction, or an online video gaming activity.

Being aware of On-line Predators - Tips for Parents
I’m Only Online, What’s the Big Deal?

This is the reality we live in today and in order to be responsible parents, we also need to be responsible Internet users. We need to learn the skills that our children are learning, create a dialogue with our children, so they know they can come to us with anything, and most of us, to build a level of trust that there are good things happening ‘out there’ too.

Parents need to remember that developmentally, a 12 year old does not fully understand the consequences of their actions, and that they need rules and structure when online to ensure that they are not engaging in risky behaviour that may have lifelong implications.

Tips For Parents for Cyber Safety For Kids

  • Talk to your child or youth about the sites and chat rooms that they are accessing. Tell them about online predators.
  • Give them guidelines and let them know your expectations of their ‘online behaviour’.
  • Sit down with your child or youth and have them show you who they are talking to and what information that they are giving out as well as what they are receiving back
  • Encourage them to talk to you about anything that makes them feel uncomfortable or uneasy when they are online
  • Discuss with them that this is a new world for you and that they need to help you learn along with them about their ‘friends’ and activities
  • Create the dialogue to ensure that they trust you and know that you will listen to them when they have questions about any issues that they experience online and what to do if someone is inappropriate.
  • If they are being bullied online, teach them to :- STOP – the communication, BLOCK – the messages, REPORT – to trusted adult or authorities