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.
Some child predators are extremely clever. Their tactics aren’t as transparent as we once believed. Which honestly makes it scarier for parents.
A lot of the tips our parents gave us are simply obsolete today, and predators can easily trick children into a false sense of security.
Staying away from individuals offering candy, an animal to play with, or anything nice without you around is still relevant today. But child predators may have a lot more up their sleeve today to gain a child’s trust. Here are some tips to keep your children safe from predators.
It is important to teach your kids to stay away from strangers. But “stay away from strangers” is not the best way to posit the lesson. The word “stranger” may connote, to a child, the image of a mean, scary individual. In reality, a predator will likely approach a child in a nice manner, and isn’t always scary looking. Additionally, all a predator has to say to a child is that they are “friends with their mother/father”, and that child may no longer see them as a stranger. Stress to your child that it doesn’t matter whether an individual they don’t recognize is nice or not. Stress to your child that someone’s attitude, or what they have to say, has nothing to do with their intentions.
Another tactic child predators might use on children is to ask for their help. Make sure your child knows that no adult should ever ask a child for help.
You may not always be around to pick up your child from school or activities, where they are monitored by adults up until it’s time to go home. You may have to ask another adult you trust to take them home. Predators could be waiting around the corner, looking for children without a parent. Share a code word phrase with your child and the trusted adult who plans to pick them up, and stress that they should only go with the adult that remembers the code word phrase. Try making it silly to help them remember.
This is important. We tend to scold our children if they get too disruptive, if they’re yelling or screaming. But sometimes, they need to grab the attention of other adults around them – particularly, if someone is trying to abduct them. Play out a scenario with them and have them practice firmly saying no, screaming and running away. Also make sure they know it’s okay to kick and scream if an adult they don’t recognize tries to pick them up.
If a child is wearing personalized shirts, team uniforms or school clothing, this can actually give a child predator valuable information on a child (such as their name). They can then attempt to approach a child using that information to gain trust, making the child believe that they aren’t a stranger and that they do somehow know them. So, be cautious about letting your child wear clothes that can be identifying.
It’s also a good idea to check your neighborhood for registered sex offenders. Apps like The Sex Offender App will show you where any sex offenders live in your neighborhood. Stay away from these homes if you’re trick or treating with your child on Halloween. Have a safe Long Island summer!