Young people are using the Internet, chats, online games, and video calls more often than ever, while their dependence on technology has reached unprecedented levels. The Internet offers children valuable opportunities to learn and socialize, especially during the pandemic. However, children spending large amounts of time online also has a dark side, posing the risk of victimization and abuse.
It is important to recognize the risks one can be exposed to online and know how to protect your kids from them. You can take steps to keep your children safe from online predators and inappropriate information.
Social Media Safety
New social media sites are emerging every day, while old ones disappear. When ensuring your child’s online safety, you should focus on those that are here to stay, such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat. Ask your children for their passwords, so you know what they’re doing on social media. Then, you can check all of their accounts for suspicious activity.
The hardest platform to monitor is Twitter because it doesn’t place any limitations on who can contact your child. Officially, the required age to use the platform is 13 years old to use the platform, but this rule is not enforced. Moreover, Twitter has many imitator and parody accounts with offensive images and language, which can be harmful to children. They might follow an account they believe to belong to their favorite singer or actor. Instead, it could be maintained by a potentially dangerous imposter.
You can mute specific hashtags, words, and phrases so your child never sees them as an effective protective measure. Likewise, you can set requests to follow these accounts to monitor them. To stay on top of this, however, great vigilance is needed. You will also need to know how to block users, too. This will prevent people from contacting your child and vice versa.
Online Games and Chat Apps
Online predators and scammers often target children through chat apps or online multiplayer games. They may also ask for or send some content of sexual nature, meaning that a child can be victimized while using the Internet at home. Parents and other care providers can help keep children and teens safe while they connect and interact with people online by having age-appropriate discussions with them. These include discussing the warning signs of online abuse and predatory activity, such as signs of grooming.
What is Grooming?
Grooming for abuse online is a process used by predators to test their victims’ boundaries while manipulating Internet users prior to committing an act of abuse. In this process, perpetrators can determine how far the victim’s boundaries can be pushed. Moreover, they work on gaining their trust with the goal to exploit it later. Predators in particular will manipulate their victims by making them believe that their unacceptable behavior is normal.
Signs of grooming include making sexual or suggestive comments, asking the child not to tell anyone about “their special relationship” and asking them about their experiences with sexual activity. Other signs include requesting contact only on certain apps, sending links to pornography or suggestive images or memes, or even asking the child if their parents are home.
In addition, a predator is likely to ask the child to close the door when chatting or only wanting to chat at night or another specific time. In addition, other signs of grooming include emphasizing the child’s appearance and asking for more photos of them.
It is important to be wary of someone who makes conditions on your children’s relationship with them. For example, they might threaten to stop talking to the child unless they send them pictures or do something else for them. Another sign of grooming is gifting items in games or sending the child gifts online.
If your child shares their unpleasant experience or interaction online with you, it is important to take them seriously. You can get in touch with law enforcement if you observe any highly unusual and unacceptable behavior taking place.