Keep Children Safe on the Internet

By: Steve Cownley

Warning Signs

How do you know if your child is in danger of encountering a perpetrator? Here are some tell-tale signs you should spot:

&bullIf your child starts to detach from the rest of the family. They don't eat at the dinner table or accompany the family on outings. They become detached from school and other activities they used to enjoy.

&bullThe child doesn't talk to their family as much as they used to. When a sex offender or perpetrator tries to lure them away, they'll plant false images in the child's mind. The child in turn, creates a separation between themselves and their families.

&bullYour child is suddenly getting gifts from someone you've never met or heard of. This is another way the offender tries to separate the child from their family. The offender will send things that the child likes in order to get their attention.

&bullThe offender will make it seem like they are the only ones the like the child and are looking out for their best interests. Some offenders will go as far as sending them a plane ticket to meet them.

&bullIf you happen to come in the room and your child abruptly changes to another website or screen, there's a chance they may be looking at something that they're not supposed to look at. If they're looking at sexually charged content, they do not want you to see it. They don't want to suffer the consequences.

&bullIn order to divert attention from their online account, you child will use someone else's account to access sexually charged content or connect with the sex offender. They'll either go to the library or a friend's place to do this.

&bullPhone calls for your child will increase and they won't be from their friends, either. It will be from people that parents have never heard of or met. Or, they can be long distance phone numbers that parents don't know about.

Some perpetrators talk with the children to get them sexually aroused. This way, they can get them in the mood to set up a date for a real sexual encounter.

&bullIf parents find that their child spends a lot of time on the internet, this may be a problem. It could definitely surface as a problem if the child is online during the late evening hours when they should be sleeping.

&bullThey'll also stay online during the weekends. They'll spend a lot of time in the chat rooms. If they are home alone after school, this is a perfect set up for the perpetrator.

They will either have the child call them back or they'll get the child's phone number from the child themselves. Some perpetrators have even gone so far as to get a toll-free number so the parents would think that it might be a company calling. This way, they would be able to throw the parent off as to who is actually calling.

This is not good because there is no guidance or control during this time. While the parents are working, the child has their way and is in free reign of the computer.

If they're not focused on what they're supposed to be doing, they can easily get sidetracked with people trying to lure them for sexual encounters or they could get hooked on pornography at a young age.

In order to get their young victims to open up, sex offenders may send the child pornographic images. They try to instill in the child that those sexual relations between children and adults is natural. Parents should be cognizant of what is on the computer. A child may also copy the sexually explicit pictures on a disk to put away.

If parents have a suspicion that their child is headed for danger, there are some things they can do before it gets worse:

&bullParents will eventually want to confront the child about their concerns. Let the child know that they care and that if the concerns are true, find way to turn the situation around.

&bullParents should check what websites their child has had access to. If the parent finds any kind of sexually explicit information, this should be cause for alarm.

Steve Cownley

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