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The kids of today’s generation spend most of their time online, and ever since the COVID. More children are visiting the online world now than ever. Unfortunately, this increase in online usage has also attracted online predators who are constantly on the hunt to exploit young teens.
This exploitation usually starts from a seemingly friendly online gesture and then becomes sexual abuse. So in this article, we’ll be covering all the signs to watch out for and techniques to keep your children safe from internet predators.
Part 1: How Predators Deceive Children Online?
There are certain signs that are obvious, and any adult can spot that from miles away. However, online predators have changed their tactics. They are more cunning now and manipulate teens in devious ways that are not apparent at first glance.
One common technique with these predators is to disguise themselves as an ordinary teen. This is because children feel safer and secure with people their age, which these predators want them to believe. So they lend an ear and pretend to listen to your children’s problems, and once they have gained the child’s trust, they push them to do obscene acts that are often sexual in nature.
The alarming problem is that these predators are virtually everywhere. They use all the famous social media outlets to search for victims. However, they are not limited to social media sites. Even in in-game lobbies, these predators lure teens to do inappropriate acts.
Step1Teenage Girls are at a Greater Risk
Predators of today’s time also aim for teenage girls as their sexual content can sell amongst their sick communities and be used to lure teenage boys into their scheme. Images of both boys and girls are then captured through dedicated software and shared on the relevant sites.
Step2Asking to Keep a Special Secret
Although online predators have twisted their ways to remain hidden, most parents can still pick up the telltale signs and root them out. Unfortunately, however, children are not so proficient in identifying people. This is why these predators will ask your child to keep their ‘friendship’ a secret.
They will first start with regular things and see if the child can keep the secret, and once they have made sure their dirty ways will not get out, they move on to more abusive acts. Children at this point are often guilt-tripped and will usually not tell their parents about the sexual abuse.
Step3Telling Dirty Jokes
Internet predators might lure a child through dirty jokes. Similar to other acts, the starting jokes are not much ordinary. Still, soon these predators start to tell dirtier, more sexual jokes and see if the child is going with it.
As children often cannot understand the fine line between sexual abuse and innocent fun, they take part in these dirty jokes and games until the abuser finally moves towards pornography or physical abuse.
Step4Gaining Personal Information
Asking for information to get them to know a child better is like a holy grail for abusers. So they will ask for information such as the child’s full name, street address, school, and any information that can either help track the child physically down or provide content for conversations later on.
Some predators will be direct, asking children about where they live. Others will be more subtle, asking for details with hidden meanings. Such as asking a child whether they have eaten ice cream from a particular place or where do they get their favorite toys from. This subtle way of extracting information might even fool some parents and helps the abuser is getting closer to the child.
Once the child abuser has gained the child’s trust, they will steer the conversation towards sex. Requests for sexual photos or videos will be made, and they will pressure the child into fulfilling their demands. When the child makes the mistake of sending them their desired content, abusers will start to blackmail the child by threatening to release the explicit content and demand more.
This way, the young one is trapped in a neverending cycle, and they won’t even tell their parents as they are ashamed of their acts.
Part 2: How to Deal With Online Predators?
As soon as you recognize a predator, these are the steps you as a parent should immediately follow these steps:
Block the online predator from whatever platform they have been using to exploit your child. For example, the predator might have gained the child’s trust and will try to convince your child to go against you or contact them on a different platform.
If the predator succeeds, your young one will go against your wishes and try to make contact again, restarting the complete cycle of abuse. So as soon as you identify a predator, block them from all places and shut off all types of communication.
Tip 2Notify the Relevant Authorities
Immediately call the relevant authorities/police in your area and report the internet predator to them. If child services are active in your area, contact them too. In addition, some states have dedicated hotlines for sexual assaults or abuse and will guide you to help your child recover from whatever the predator had put your child through.
Note that reporting is critical at this point, as the predator knows a lot about your child and might not hesitate to harm physically. So as soon as the predator has been identified, alert the relevant authorities with all the details.
Tip 3Communicate with your Child
Talk with your child about how they feel and see if they need to communicate something. Sexual abuse can severely affect a child mentally, and they will need your help in recovering. Contact the dedicated services operating in your area that help with abuse/sexual harassment, and they will provide the required assistance.
Additionally, you should also talk to your child about notifying you whenever something suspicious happens. Tell them the telltale signs of a predator we have mentioned above and instruct them to immediately inform you or any trusted adult about the behavior so a predator can be stopped in their tracks before the harm is done.
Part 3: How to Prevent Online Predators as Parents?
You and your child can follow some prevention techniques to ensure that a predator is identified beforehand.
Method 1Online Safety Education
Educating your child about the online world is the first and most important step that should be taken before letting a young one go online. This will ensure children can stay safe regardless of how cunning the online predator is.
• Never share images with a stranger
Teens should be taught that it’s okay and fun to chat on social media, gaming lobbies, and even chat rooms; it’s also important to note some dangers. For example, children should not be sharing their real names with online strangers, along with other personal information such as age, address, or school location.
Other than personal information, parents should also ensure that their young ones are not sharing their pictures online. Such images are one of the first things these predators want, and then they can use them to identify or blackmail the child.
Apart from this, instruct your child that under no circumstances should they daily talk with an adult stranger online. Of course, not all adults are predators, but since it’s almost impossible to know who is on the other end of the communication channel, it’s better to stay on the safe side and instruct your child to avoid adults altogether in online chats.
• Identify the red flags and instruct to inform parents whenever one is spotted
One of the core tricks of abusers revolves around blackmailing and guilt-shaming the child so that they won’t tell anything to their parents. The abuser’s scheme goes on uninterrupted. To counter this, you as a parent should ensure that your children feel comfortable talking to you about such things.
In addition, you should let your children know that even if they have committed an inevitable mistake, they won’t be in trouble while telling you. Also, make sure that when your child does tell you a mistake they have made, act rationally at the point and keep in mind that if you react too harshly, the child might not communicate with you the next time something happens.
Method 2Monitoring App
Another route parents can take is to deploy a monitoring app to their children’s devices. This app will keep an eye on your kid’s activities. In addition, it will allow your children to explore the web under supervision freely. One such app is FamiSafe which provides parents with a whole set of features to monitor their children and keep them out of harm’s way.
• Location tracking
Parents can keep an eye on where their children are going and can even set some locations as dangerous. The app will notify them when their children venture into said location.
• Social media check
All social media messages, notifications, and other updates will also be sent to the parents to ensure nothing dangerous occurs.
• Explicit Content Detection
Parents are notified whenever something explicit crosses the child’s screen
We hope these tips and techniques will help you keep your child safe from online predators and their manipulative tactics. Remember that communication is vital, and keeping the communication channel open with your children can help detect these internet predators before any damage is done.