Kids and the Internet
While on-line computer exploration opens a world of possibilities for children, expanding their horizons and exposing them to different cultures and ways of life, they can be exposed to dangers as they hit the road exploring the information highway. There are individuals who attempt to sexually exploit children through the use of on-line services and the Internet. Some of these individuals gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money, and energy in this process. They listen to and empathize with the problems of children. They will be aware of the latest music, hobbies, and interests of children. These individuals attempt to gradually lower children’s inhibitions by slowly introducing sexual context and content into their conversations. It is important for parents to understand that children can be indirectly victimized through conversation, i.e. “chat,” as well as the transfer of sexually explicit information and material. Computer-sex offenders may also be evaluating children they come in contact with on-line for future face-to-face contact and direct victimization. Parents and children should remember that a computer-sex offender can be any age or sex the person does not have to fit the caricature of a dirty, unkempt, older man wearing a raincoat to be someone who could harm a child.
What Are Signs That Your Child Might Be At Risk On-line?
Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. They may go on-line after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, and pass time. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent on-line. Children on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure children.
Your child receives phone calls from adults you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
While talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often seek to set up an actual meeting. While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they can readily find out the child’s phone number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child’s phone number.
Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
A child looking at pornographic images or having inappropriate conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.
What Can You Do To Minimize The Chances Of An On-line Exploiter Victimizing Your Child?
- Communicate, and talk to your child and potential on-line danger.
- Spend time with your children on-line. Have them teach you about their favorite on-line destinations.
- Keep the computer in a common room in the house, not in your child’s bedroom. It is much more difficult for a computer-sex offender to communicate with a child when the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
- Utilize parental controls provided by your service provider and/or blocking software. While electronic chat can be a great place for children to make new friends and discuss various topics of interest, it is also prowled by computer-sex offenders. Use of chat rooms, in particular, should be heavily monitored. While parents should utilize these mechanisms, they should not totally rely on them.
- Always maintain access to your child’s on-line account and randomly check his/her e-mail. Be aware that your child could be contacted through the U.S. Mail. Be up front with your child about your access and reasons why.
- Teach your child the responsible use of the resources on-line. There is much more to the on-line experience than chat rooms.
- Find out what computer safeguards are utilized by your child’s school, the public library, and at the homes of your child’s friends. These are all places, outside your normal supervision, where your child could encounter an on-line predator.
- Understand, even if your child was a willing participant in any form of sexual exploitation, that he/she is not at fault and is the victim. The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.
- Instruct your children:
- to never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on- line;
- to never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know;
- to never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;
- to never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images;
- to never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
- that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.