04 May 2010

HOW TO: Internet Predators Targeting Children

Chris Hansen's, 'To Catch a Predator' series, its a great way to see how Internet Predators do their dirt first hand. Which is exactly why I'm writing this post. Today I'm going to talk about which signs appear when a child is being targeted by a predator and what you, the parent, should do it you see anything strange.

Okay, if a child or teen becomes withdrawn from family and friends and starts to spend a lot of time online and/or quickly turns the computer monitor off or changes the screen if an adult comes into the room, just know that these are all signs.

If you find pornography on the family computer, depending on the family, this could be out of the norm. If it is then I suggest you back track and read a my last post on Internet predators.

You notice a child or teen receives phone calls from people you don't know or they call numbers you don't recognize, including long distance numbers. In our fast paced world of busy parents and independent teens owning their own cell phones, this is important to note. One solution is to keep them on the family plan as long as possible. I have a  friend who is on her parents family plan while living in a different city. There's nothing wrong with it, especially when you notice your kids acting suspicious.

I don't think I have to say this next one, but if a child receives mail, emails, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know ... take action if you haven't already. This sort of thing is common with predators. Internet predators have even been known to send plane tickets to their victims.

And if you notice a child or teen using someone else's online account, it could mean the predator provided the child with an alternate computer account to maneuver around computer restrictions in the home.

So, if a child is targeted by an Internet predator what do you do?
A lot of the infromation I've mentioned can seem like normal behavior for kids and can be easily overlooked. This goes especially for those seemingly responsible teens.
First things first, if you see something suspicious, call the police immediately.

You make the call if a child or teen is sent pornographic or sexually explicit images or if he/she is sexually solicited in email, instant messaging or any other way online. Save any of these items to give to police when they arrive. (chat logs, web site addresses, email address etc.) Don't try to be the parent that settles the matter on your own if you don't have to. You may not have all the information and the child could still have ties with the predetor or others.

Check your computer periodically for pornographic material or any type of sexual communication.

Last, monitor all electronic communication your child has accessed.(chat rooms, instant messaging, email etc.) Online predators almost always meet potential victims in chat rooms first, then they continue the communication using email.

Remember, if a child is every caught up in some sort of sexual encounter with an adult, the child is never at fault. The adult will take responsibility for their own actions.

This is only 'how to spot a child being targeted by an Internet predator', next I'm going to go over 'how Internet predators operate'.

Till then enjoy a clip from 'To Catch a Predator' with Chris Hansen.