As a parent, you never want to think of your child being targeted by online predators. However, with the access that dangerous people have to your child’s social media accounts and other private information, you must be alert. Letting your child create a Facebook account may seem like a routine rite of passage, but that doesn’t mean there are no risks associated. Educating yourself and your child about what online activity predators engage in can help avoid these dangers.
It can be difficult to explain to your child what a predator is. Not only is this a sensitive subject, but predators often build online identities that seem harmless. Often, predators create fake profiles or identities in order to friend a child. Then, they guide the conversation in directions intended to make children feel more mature, or to give teens the emotional support that they crave. These tactics can make it easy for predators to hide in plain sight and not appear threatening. If children don’t know what to look for, it can be very easy to deceive them.
Fortunately, parents can help their children spot predators. Having open, frequent conversations about what happens on your child’s social media accounts can help parents catch suspicious activity early on. If your child isn’t very willing to discuss what they’re doing on Facebook, you may need to monitor their social media accounts, reminding them that this is for your own safety. You can also encourage your child’s school to teach students about online safety and to monitor computer activity, whether through close supervision or computer word and phrase monitoring intended to keep students safe by alerting adults about dangerous activity. If your child is receiving friend requests from people they don’t know at all–or even that well–they should not be accepting them. Many social media accounts ask for personal information, such as locations, schools, likes and dislikes, etc. Giving a stranger access to this information could allow a predator to target your child.
Additionally, it’s possible that a predator is someone you know. The National Institute of Justice reports that, in cases of sexual assault, most victims know their attacker. Your child could be talking to a family friend or adult online, and the situation could prove to be inappropriate — especially if your child is looking for someone to confide in. This is why monitoring your child’s Internet access is absolutely necessary. Making sure children are aware of possible dangers and having access to their social media accounts allows parents to be vigilant where a child might not be able to see danger.
By Laura Jane Crocker