Despite horrific stories and statistics, we tend to think that being victimized by online predators is something that happens to other kids, not our own. Call it denial or a defense mechanism to protect our sanity, but whatever you name it, don’t let this myth keep you from taking the necessary measures to keep your child safe from those who would do her harm from behind a computer monitor. Here’s what you need to know about the very real danger of online predators.
### Predators Use Social Media Networks
According to a recent report, sex crimes associated with the two biggest social media networks—Facebook and Twitter—have quadrupled since 2009. Predators are finding that these social networks are the best places to find young, naïve prey. Often pretending to be adolescents themselves, predators use fake names and profile pictures to disguise themselves, tricking their victims into taking the conversation offline.
### Predators Prey on the Most Vulnerable
Online predators “groom” their victims by attempting to build trust and form a so-called friendship. They often spend days, weeks, or months making flattering comments about the child’s appearance, “listening” to their problems, and sometimes isolating them from friends and family by making it seem that they are the only ones who care. All kids are vulnerable to these tactics, but those with low self-esteem or currently dealing with problems at home or school are particularly susceptible.
### They Sometimes Seek Out Their Prey
Online predators don’t always wait for their prey to come to them, especially when they can glean personal information from a child’s social media profile. Besides looking for the obvious such as phone numbers or physical addresses, predators carefully scrutinize photos to look for clues such as a school name, license plate number, or other indicator of where the child lives.
The facts about online predators are scary, and no parent wants to think about their own child being victimized. Unfortunately, unless you face this issue head on by talking to your child about online safety and using parental control software to keep a tab on their social media use, they’ll be defenseless when navigating the sometimes dangerous waters of social networking.