Being proactive is one of the best defenses against child predators. Below we have provided you with some valuable tips and strategies that you can use to minimize the risk of your children becoming a victim of a child predator.
Many parents feel like getting their children’s passwords and monitoring internet activity is an invasion of privacy. When it comes to protecting your children, there should be no hesitation to do whatever is necessary, especially if one of the signs that we mentioned on the ‘How Predators Work’ (LINK) page is present.
It may be a difficult thing to hear, but it is not your job as a parent to be your child’s friend. It IS up to you to protect them and sometimes that will be in spite of their actions and behaviors. If they balk at giving you passwords, explain to them why you require them and that it is not up for negotiation. To avoid problems as they get older, begin this process as soon as they start getting online.
Following these tips below doesn’t guarantee that your child will never cross paths with an online predator but what it will do is help you and your children or teens prepare for that possibility. This knowledge will help them know what to do if they encounter a predator and will ultimately keep them a lot safer.
- Talk to your children and teens about child predators – This can be very difficult for some parents. They may be afraid of frightening their children or that it is too scary and unpleasant. No parent wants to talk about unpleasant or scary things. What you have to remember is that the alternative, your child becoming a victim of a predator, is far scarier and unpleasant. You don’t have to frighten them, but it is very important to talk to them about what a child predator is and how they operate.
- Younger children should never be in chat rooms or forums…period. The dangers of these places, not to mention the kind of language and conversations that typically go on are not good for young ones to be a part of. As they get older, if they want to participate in chat rooms, make sure these chat rooms are monitored by reputable monitors.
- Know your child’s chat room activity – If your child is a part of any chat rooms, know which ones they are and find out who they are chatting with. Go into the chat with your child and just sit back and listen. Yes, that could make your child uncomfortable but be strong. You have a right, as their parent, to be there. Be on the lookout for suspicious behavior and pay attention to the other chat members that talk to your child.
- Stay in the main chat area – Make sure that your child knows to stay in the chat room’s public, main area. Most chat rooms offer the opportunity for members to chat privately with each other. You should not let your child engage in those private, one-on-one chat rooms. It is too easy for a child predator to get a child into one of those private rooms where no one else can see the conversation and stat trying to sway the child.
- Keep the kids’ computer in a common area of the home – Many children are allowed to have full-sized computers, laptops, cell phones and more. It is advisable to keep the children’s computer in a main area of the house that is not isolated. A living room, kitchen or den is sufficient. This will discourage the child from engaging in a dangerous conversation with anyone they shouldn’t. Don’t fall into a false sense of security just because the computer is in a main spot in the house. You should still check on what they are doing, even if they are in the same room.
- Have a family email address – When children are younger, don’t give them their own email address. Let them use the family email address so you can monitor the emails they get. As they get older, you can decide if they can have their own email, but continue to keep tabs on it. If you develop a good, open relationship with your kids you will be able to relax more that they will tell you if there is anything to tell regarding someone they don’t know contacting them or trying to. Until that is established, it is up to you to check on things on a regular basis.
- Don’t respond to unknown emails, texts, or instant messages – If your child doesn’t recognize who is emailing, instant messaging, or testing them instruct them to let you know immediately and that they should never respond, not even to say they will not be responding. The predators look for a way in and even a tiny bit of room to get in there could be enough to get a dialogue started.
- Monitor and ask questions about other internet access – You children have access to the internet via their cell phones, at school, at friends’ houses, and the public library. Even their friends could provide access via their cell phones. Just because the internet connection and devices are not in your home, it doesn’t mean you can’t monitor. Find out what safeguard are used, talk to the mothers of your child’s friends and find out what internet rules are present and so on.
- Make internet rules early on and stick to them – It is not uncommon for children to hate rules, but in this case, you shouldn’t worry about whether they are annoyed or mad. Make rules regarding their internet access including who they are allowed to talk to, and what apps and sites they are allowed to join and be a part of and which ones they aren’t. If you are not familiar with a site or app they are using, check it out.
- Never meet in person with a parent present – Your child should NEVER agree to meet an internet people, even one that seems to check out fine, without parental support and supervision. It is a good safeguard against any potential problems or risks.Having these iron-clad, non-negotiable rules in place increase your child’s safety significantly.
- Never allow downloads from unknown sources – This is a good practice to get into even if you are not protecting your child against child predators. From a predator standpoint, they could be sending your child pornography sites, inappropriate photos or any number of things you don’t want your child exposed to. Teach them never to download ANYTHING without checking it out with you first.
- Tell an adult right away – Teach your children early on to tell you right away if anyone does or says anything online that makes them feel uncomfortable or if anyone instructs them to do something that they don’t want to do. Open dialogue with your kids is so important. The earlier you can establish this habit the better but even if you haven’t had it before, it’s not too late to start. The best way to ensure that your children will come to you with anything out of the ordinary regarding their internet experiences is to not get mad or frustrated with them when they DO tell you things, even if they do something they shouldn’t. If you get angry at them, it will reinforce their fear of telling you what is going on and could create a potential “In” for the child predator.
- Choose neutral names that do not contain personal info – When choosing screen names, encourage your child to choose gender neutral names. Child predators will target boys and girls, but choosing a neutral name will make it harder for them to zero in on whether the child is a girl or boy. If your child is a teen, make sure their screen names are not suggestive in any way.
- Never give out personal information…ever – Teach your children and teens to never give out personal information to anyone online and not to fill out online profiles with real names, city or residence or even the state. It is extremely important not to reveal anything personal due to the fact that the predators will use this information to try and build a relationship with them. They shouldn’t even give out age or gender unless it is a friend they know from school, church, or extracurricular activities.
Utilizing these tips will help reduce the chances of your child being contacted or approached by a child predator. By having rules in place and making sure you check your child’s history and internet activities you are making it much harder for a predator to get a foothold with your child.
It will be harder to explain the necessity of these rules to teens that oftentimes think that they are well-informed and able to spot a predator on their own. As much as they want their independence, they have to know that there are things that are just not safe to do when they are online.
In these cases, you will have to remain firm in your rules and in checking up on them to make certain that they are abiding by them. Although it can cause some grumbling on the part of your teen, it is always better to be safe than sorry.