28 May 2010

HOW TO: Children at Risk of Internet Predators

In today's world of obsessions and high pressure demands, the demands of an online sex predator have never been more apparent. In my final "HOW TO", post my goal is to wrap up a series about how to fight online predators. If you've missed out on previous posts, be sure to follow the series in the sidebar for more information on how you and your family can fight online predators.

The first rule of engagement here states that regardless of the situation, any adult involved in any sort of sexual relationship with a child is entirely at fault and takes full responsibility for their actions. But I believe that we can do a better job of guiding our children away from these dangers, and do it without the typical paranoid behavior we all saw after 9-11. With that said, today's topic is going to make you aware of children that are the most vulnerable and walk you through exactly how a predator and even another teen can take advantage of a child in this situation; because not all predators are pedophiles.

To refresh your memories, the most common approach for a predator is through conversation. Whether in a chat room or email, or by being shown sexually explicit information and material. Its a known fact, children and especially adolescents are curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be moving away from the total control of parents and looking to establish new relationships outside their family. For these reasons, some older children and adolescents will actively seek out sexually explicit material and even strangers with a particular interest in them. Sex offenders who target children will exploit these tendencies. Young teens may also be attracted to and lured by online offenders who are close to their age. Although these people are not technically pedophiles, they may still be dangerous. And this is why:

Children who are already at risk of being victimized by a pedophile are often times at a high risk of being recruited into prostitution. These children and adolescents face increased danger on the web, which offers a megaphone through which kids unwittingly announce their vulnerability to the world. These children take actions that welcome predators or anyone else that is curious about everything but the child's age.

"They may post sexual images. They may indicate that they’re up for anything. They may indicate that they’re more mature, and know a lot more things than anybody around them appreciates…. And like a weak fish broadcasting to a shark, they broadcast their vulnerability to sexual predators, pimps and sexual traffickers." - Parry Aftab, founder and director of WiredSafety

Even though some young people are particularly vulnerable to online predators and pimps, children that are most at risk will most likely display the following traits:
  • New online and unfamiliar with Netiquette
  • Actively seeking attention/affection
  • Rebellious
  • Isolated or lonely
  • Curious
  • Confused regarding sexual identity
  • Easily tricked by adults
  • Allured by subcultures outside of parents' world
The chances of a girl being sexually victimized throughout childhood is twice as likely as a boy, the risk quadruples to a staggering eight times the risk during adolescence, based on findings from Sex Abuse of Children by Renee Z. Dominguez, Ph.D., Connie F. Nelke, Ph.D., Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.

So how does this work with my child?

Its a simple process but very unfortunate. A child or teen enters an adult chat room or maybe they post nude pictures on their MySpace profile or blog. The child is soon friends with a wiser, older person that reveals life at home for what it really is or make parents seem like the bad guy by giving the child special attention; after trust is gained, then a meeting or date is suggested.

The child will likely run away to a so-called "better life" (most likely prostitution) or continue a secret relationship with the pedophile while still living at home. Months later, pictures of the child are found on pornographic websites in federal investigations. At that point the child has bought the lie that any authority figure is bad and does not have their best interest in mind. So they continue to run.

"With the paedophilia's obsessions and demand for our vulnerable children becoming higher than ever, the time has passed where its okay to procrastinate in our priorities and shift the responsibility of raising our present and future generations to they other parent. That day must be TODAY."

Inspired by Chris Hansen of Dateline MSNBC's "To Catch a Predator"