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We recently discussed how child predators have become more and more clever when it comes to gaining a child’s trust – whether it’s on the playground, near the school, or while they’re riding his or her bike around the block. We offered up some useful tips for parents to help their children form a cohesive understanding of when they may be getting lured, discussed some of the ways child predators may attempt to gain a child’s trust, and gave some tips on what parents can do to safeguard their kids.
But children aren’t just at risk at the park or around the neighborhood. The threat resides online, too. Online predators might even have an easier time gaining a child or young adolescent’s trust online than they would in person, using social media as their hunting ground.
Social media has become a bridge for young adults to connect and make new friends. In fact, 33% of teenage Facebook users have made friends with people they’ve never actually met. And therein lies the problem. Anyone can friend you on Facebook with images portraying another person. And an alarming number of teens create profiles that include their address, phone number, and school. The social pressure to have more “friends” and “followers” puts children and young adults in a precarious position. Social media has become an ideal way for child abductors to prey on children. Studies have also shown that teenagers are unafraid, out of natural curiosity, to engage with their newfound friends (with whom they’ve never met), and even discuss personal information – sometimes agreeing to meet.
KidGuard.com shines a floodlight on the seriousness of this issue. Since kids love to post photos of themselves on social media and even mark their whereabouts, it’s not difficult for child predators to target their victims. Many times, there’s no need for them to pretend to be someone young. They simply have to portray themselves as someone who is nice to them, willing to give them the time of day, and understanding. According to KidGuard.com, teens who are alienated from their parents are the easiest target and predators are happy to provide a listening ear. Predators also study kids’ social media profiles to get an overall understanding of their interests and can attempt to gain their trust through “common interests”.
These online connections many times lead to sexual exploitation and kidnapping. 50% of sex crimes committed against a minor involve a predator gaining knowledge on their target online through social media sites. As a parent, these statistics are shockingly scary. What can you do?
Educate your child on the dangers of social media, how sharing too much information puts them at a huge risk and that it’s never okay to engage with someone they’ve never actually met.
If you know what social media sites, online gaming apps, etc. that your child is using, do some research on them. Discuss which ones with your child are acceptable and which ones are not.
Disable “geotagging” through the ‘Settings’ on your child’s mobile phone so their location is not easily disclosed to any potential predators. You should also discourage your child from “checking in” at spots on social media outlets. This gives away their location to everyone if their social media is not private.
Check their social media pages to make sure their privacy settings are up. Keep in mind, though, that many sites, after updates are installed, will revert to their default “Public” setting. So, it’s important to keep an eye on your child’s privacy settings.
You may be met with resistance when asking for your child’s password, but it’s important. And it’s best that you explain to your child the importance of this. Not only is having their passwords for social media accounts, their mobile devices, etc., important in making sure they aren’t being preyed on, it’s also important in case they go missing.
You may always feel the need to protect your children, and your children have to know this. Being strict has its time and place, but establishing a rapport that encourages them to approach you if they ever feel threatened or uncomfortable is imperative in keeping them safe.
KidGuard is trying to raise awareness and educate parents on internet safety and the cyber risks that children and teens are facing in the age of technology and we fully back this endeavor.