Online Predators

Sexual predators do exist and are a very real threat. They target both boys and girls of all ages and use the anonymity of the Internet to their advantage since they can be whomever they want. Many are master manipulators with skills that can cripple any child's sense of awareness. This is known as the grooming process and predators look for children that are more technically savvy than their parents.

They look for children that are emotionally vulnerable which can be related to personal issues derived from problems at school or home. They use these issues to befriend the victim and empathize with them while building a pseudo friendship and trust. If a child indicates frustration with parents or teachers at school, the predator might suggest the child's parents are way too strict or their teacher is being unfair. This plays right into the adolescent mind as they look for someone to validate their feelings.

With the presence of searchable user profiles when using Instant Messaging and Chat Rooms, as well as Social Networking profiles and even video hosting sites like YouTube, predators can easily find information about potential victims since many naive children reveal personal information with no regard for safety. Even simple statements listed on a profile such as school attended, sport played, or even a jersey number can allow predators to target them. A 16 year old girl innocently posting a picture standing next to her new car in the driveway doesn’t realize she is also telling a potential predator what her car looks like, her license plate number, house address, etc.

Once a predator Instant Messages or Chats with a victim and gains their trust they often send pornographic pictures via a chat session or e-mail and sometimes send gifts or a cell phone through the mail so calls or texts will not show up on a phone bill that parents will see. If the victim tries to cut off communication, predators will often suggest they will tell their parents what they have been doing online and how they have viewed pornographic pictures, etc... and scare the victim into reluctantly continuing the relationship. A term known as “sextortion” takes this to a new level if the predator is able to secure compromising images or information about the victim by convincing them to send nude images, disrobe on a live webcam session, or hack into their device and steal material. In return for not exposing the victim they will demand money, additional material, or even sex.

The Internet is a worldwide network that stretches far beyond the grasp of the US judicial system. Technology moves so fast the slow progression of our law making process will never fully address the problem. Therefore, parents must be on guard to protect their families. There are many organizations and government agencies designed to assist parents with issues such as these. Internet searching for information will also provide many links and websites to help.

Predator Grooming

  • Chat Rooms (based on interest)
  • Look for child oriented screen names
  • Search through Social Networking profiles
  • Strike up a conversation
  • Show interest and gain their trust
  • Build them up (be their friend)

Predator Warning Signs

  • Spends a lot of time online or on portable device
  • Find porn material on the computer or portable device
  • Receive texts, phone calls, mail, gifts from people you do not know
  • Withdraws from normal activity
  • Switches computer screen or closes out of app quickly when approached
  • Uses hidden accounts for e-mail or Instant Messaging
  • Shows signs of worry, stress, or desperation

Other helpful websites for more information:

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