Recognize Predatory Activity
Increase Your Awareness
The anonymity of the Internet means that intimacy can develop quickly online. Predators take advantage of this effect to build online relationships with inexperienced young people.
Online predators have been known to initiate contact with the kids they target through chat rooms, instant messaging, email, discussion boards, social networks, blogs and online games. Increasing your awareness of how predators operate can help you identify signs of predatory activity and take steps to protect your family.
How Do Predators Operate?
Online predators typically seek out emotionally vulnerable targets and attempt to earn their trust in order to bring about an in-person meeting. Young adolescents are typically the most at-risk age group. Targets tend to be:
Recognizing the Signs
While some predators work quickly — engaging in sexually explicit conversations immediately — many devote considerable time, money and energy to gradually winning over targets. The following is a brief look at some predatory tactics and warning signs that your child may be the target of predatory activity.
Family Warning Signs
Offers attention, affection and maximum availability to create an online relationship.
Seeks to drive a wedge between target and family by exaggerating problems at home under the guise of being supportive.
Introduces sexual conversations or content to lower target’s inhibitions or convince them that adult-teen relationships are normal and acceptable.
Provides additional means of electronic communication outside of original Internet contact.
Initiates phone contact to engage in phone sex or as a prelude to in-person meetings. May trick target into revealing their phone number by providing a 1-800 number for the target to call.
Sends letters or gifts by mail to further cement the relationship, prove affection or enable in-person meetings.
Achieves offline meeting with target.
If You Believe Your Child is Being Targeted
If you identify any warning signs of predatory activity, talk to your child. If your child receives sexually explicit photos from an online correspondent, or if she or he is solicited sexually in email, instant messaging or some other manner online or offline, contact your local police. Save any records of the activity — including email addresses, web site addresses, chat logs and mail — to share with the police.
If your kids come into contact with an online predator, don't blame them. The offender bears full responsibility. Seek immediate help and take decisive action to stop your child from any further contact with that person.