Always an issue. Just when you think you know what to do, what to look for, questions to ask…the predators become more savvy. Because of this, this is a must read article.
Taken from micheleborba.com
Troubling research about kids’ online smarts. Parenting advice to keep your child and teen safer online.
Studies show that predators are using more subtle and savvier ways to “befriend” kids including pretending to be another teen or child as a means of forming a relationship. The purpose of this blog is not to scare you or have you overreact and pull the plug on your computer. The chance that your child will be befriended by an online predator is rare. That said, over the last few months a few parents have contacted me about their children who did encounter online predators. Two teen girls left with those men who groomed them online. Their parents are trying desperately to reunite with their daughters. Both families recognized these warnings only after I shared them and urged me to post them. “If we’d only known,” they said. So, not to scare you, just to educate you and hopefully save you from the heartbreak those parents are now enduring.
The Predator’s Grooming Process
“Sex Predator” is a universal parent nightmare. The term alone sends shock-waves through every bone in our body. University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center survey rejects the idea that the Internet is an especially perilous place for minors, but finds that the nature of online sex crimes against minors changed little between 2000 and 2006. We also know online predators do exist, are a very real threat, and use the anonymity of the Internet to their advantage. Predators can be a he or a she, young or old, rich or poor, or any race or zip code. Law enforcement officers are noting most a change in the profile of the adult offenders. The proportion of younger adult offenders, aged 18-25, rose from 23 percent to 40 percent of arrests in cases with actual underage victims. The researchers hypothesize that the age shift may be a consequence of younger adults, who came of age online, more likely to seek out victims on the Internet than elsewhere.
Regardless of age, predators have one commonality: they are master manipulators when it comes to kids. Online predators rarely swoop in lure children or teens into quickly meeting at the local park and then abducting them. Instead, they build a relationship with the child online and slowly develop trust. Their “Grooming Process” can take several months in which their goal is to create a comfortable bond between predator and child. That bond is difficult to track but does give parents time if you are monitoring your child and your child’s online presence.
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Study uncovers solutions that may help kids be less likely to be victimized online
Just mention two words: “Online Predator” to a parent and be prepared for a full-blown panic attack. Few things are more terrifying than envisioning our kids being recruited for sexual relationships by some unseen force. Though we can ever fully protect our kids, one study gives parents critical information that just may help us stop the unthinkable.
The recent study was conducted by the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. The researchers extensively interviewed 3,000 kids 10 to 17 years old who are Internet users as well as 612 federal, state and local law enforcement officials. The data was analyzed uncovering surprising data that every parent needs to know. The study provides insightful information on how we can protect our children. Though no child is one hundred percent safe from online stalking, it appears that some children appear to be – at least from this study– far more at risk.
- Biggest surprise: For the most part it appears online predators target specific children.
- Prime on an online predator’s list: Kids who are more vulnerable. (Reread that last line carefully).
- The most vulnerable youth to online predators are those with lower-self esteem. It appears that predators specifically prey on kids who lack strong identity or have a weaker social network of their own. (Which is what research also shows about offline bullying).
- The predator looks for kids already vulnerable and then entices them by offering a romantic relationship.
7 traits of youth found to be most at risk by an online predator
Here are some of the highlights from the study and a few recommendations as to how we can take a more preventative approach to stopping this horrific crime against our children. Children who are most vulnerable:
- Have past histories of sexual or physical abuse
- Engage in patterns of risky off- or online behavior
- Frequent chatrooms
- Talk online about sex
- Divulge personal information online
- Do not have strong, healthy relationships with their parents
- Are boys who are gay or questioning their sexual orientations
Using those social networks like Facebook or MySpace does not make kids more susceptible to online predators.
What does increase a child’s danger: Frequenting chatrooms, giving out personal information and talking online to unknown people about sex. (I know you’ve heard that over and over again…but if you haven’t reminded your child about that rule, PLEASE put it on your “to do” list for today…and tomorrow..and the next …)
5 important take aways from this research
- Watch out for those chatrooms. Tell your child that if you ever walk by that computer and see him cover up that screen, the computer plug will be pulled and he loses the privilege–end of argument. Tips to Keep Kids Safer Online]
These are scarier times to be raising kids, but if we stay a bit more computer savvy, set clear rules about that computer, and more involved in our kids lives we can reduce the online predator risk and our parent panic. Perhaps the most important take away: Though there are no guarantees, the more involved you are in your child’s life, the less likely (according to this research) your child will be victimized.
Now go talk to your kid!