Do you remember watching that NBC show with Chris Hansen? If you don’t, here’s what the premise was. A group of online pedophilia fighting adults called Perverted Justice would go on online chat rooms and pretend to be 13-14 year old girls. They’d wait for an older man to approach them and set up a real, offline meeting. And when the predator would show up and make his cruel intensions clear, they’d let him know he’s on television and arrest him.
If anything, the show taught people just how important it is for parents to be more aware of their children’s online communications. Children may not realize they full scope of the danger they put themselves into, and you need to be the guide.
Predators are Never Far
The show proved how easy it was for a predator to gain access to your child at home. Pedophiles made the 2-hour drive if they had to if they knew that the child was home alone. They see the smallest chance for exploitation and they grasp at it. Since the show has been on the air, kids have started to use their own handheld devices. Which means a predator is never more than a tap of the finger away.
As if the show wasn’t enough to convince you just how perverted and accessible these predators are, the Dutch group, Terres des Hommes, developed a realistic looking avatar of a 10 year old child named Sweetie with the attention of unmasking predators.
Sweetie, the 10 year old avatar. Source: Daily Tech
So far, they’ve caught over 1000 pedophiles. Handlers of the avatar say that they have lost sleep after interacting with people that approach Sweetie. If their sick perversions were enough to disturb adults, just imagine how much damage they’d cause to your child’s mind. And this is only through a computer screen.
This is the reason why I encourage parents to get more active in their children’s digital lives. Go through their phones, see who they are communicating with. Look at the downloaded content. Check their stored multimedia files for inappropriate selfies or explicit videos. And definitely go through their chats to see what they are talking about. Kids have the tendency to overshare. They’re not going to realize that when someone over the internet asks for their address, they’re doing so for dreadful reasons.
Here’s what Lambert Child Safety found about online predators.
First of all, what you need to do is place a parental monitoring app on your child’s phone. This will give you complete remote access to their phones, so you’d be able to look through its contents from your laptop.
Second, read all their WhatsApp, Viber and iMessage chats. Look at the contact list so you know who they are talking to. Go through the chats carefully to see what they are talking about.
Third, look at their internet browsing history. Look at the websites they visit, and go through them with a fine tooth comb. Are they forums? Gaming websites? Social media? What people do they interact with here?
Once you’ve properly been through your child’s phone and pointed out suspicious, or potentially dangerous content, talk to your kids. Educate them on what they should or should not be talking about on the internet with strangers.
Here are a few things you should tell them.
- Don’t chat with random strangers about yourself
- Never give away email, phone number, address to an online stranger
- Sometimes predators will pretend to be younger
- Never exchange personal photos with a stranger
- Never appear on webcam for a stranger
- Never attempt to meet a stranger offline
- Never offer a favor to a stranger in exchange for gifts
- Never have private conversations with random strangers
- Inform a parent if something online seems suspicious
Your parenting app will help you monitor every digital interaction your kid makes. So if you happen to find a potential predator, report them immediately. And remember, as long as you’re monitoring your child’s smartphone and internet usage closely, they’ll be fine.