If you had to name the top three most painful and uncomfortable topics to talk to your kids about, I’d be willing to bet two of them would be: sex and evil. It sucks to have to tell your kids that there are bad people in the world, and as for the birds and the bees talk, it just seems unnatural to have to breech that topic with your 12-year old. Unfortunately, with more and more parents reporting that their kids’ childhood is pretty much over by the age of 12, we may need to have these discussions earlier than we thought.
Of course, the Internet only complicates things. With reports of predators luring kids into their talons through video games, Facebook, and other hunting grounds on the Web, parents must warn their kids about these dangers. While I can’t guarantee you that this will be the most pleasant discussion you’ve ever had, I can assure you that you’ll rest a bit easier knowing that you’ve equipped your youngster with the knowledge he needs to stay safe online. Here’s what you need to tell your child about online predators:
### They will try to be your friend.
Warn kids that online predators may seem like the nicest people in the world. They often manipulate their prey by being overly friendly, complimenting the child, and even researching their interests so that they can seem “cool” and attempt to form a bond with kids. You also need to inform your child that online predators will pretend to be their age. Most kids know not to talk to strange adults online, but they may be more lenient if they think they’re talking to a peer. Predators know this and try to take advantage of it by masquerading as a kid themselves.
### They won’t say anything sexually suggestive at first.
Unfortunately, online predators are smart. They know that kids aren’t going to jump into a conversation about sex. That’s why they bide their time and try to form a trusting relationship with their victims. Tell your child to avoid talking to anyone they don’t know online, even if the conversation seems innocent.
### They will attempt to send sexually explicit images.
Some online predators may attempt to shame their victims into talking to them. Many of these perpetrators will get a kid’s email address and send them a seemingly benign link, which actually contains pornographic images and/or videos. Tell your child never to open a link sent from someone they don’t know in the “real” world.
Perhaps most important of all, let your child know that he or she can come to you if they encounter anything (or anyone) online that frightens them or makes them anxious. Be sure to establish an open line of communication so that you can keep tabs on your child’s online activity. Let your child know that if a predator tries to contact them, or if they accidently see something inappropriate online, that they are to come to you immediately. Reassure them that adults should know better, and that kids are never to blame in these situations.
Talking to your kids about online predators is tough, but the payoff of keeping them safe and preserving their innocence is definitely worth it!