Internet predators are usually men posing as youths to get access to children/tweens/teens on-line or, even worse, in-person. They are brilliant at talking the talk to gain their victims’ trust. They study sites frequented by youths and learn all the lingo so they can fit right in. They spend hours and hours on-line “fishing” for potential victims. They know more about your children’s activities on-line than you do. They are driven by some pretty messed up urges/needs and will stop at nothing to attain their goal: your kids.
It’s not my intention to scare you, but you need to know what you’re up against so you can predator-proof your kids. You can’t fight the enemy you don’t know. So, let’s discuss how to Internet Predator-Proof your kids.
Listen, don’t lecture. Listening with compassion and understanding means yours kids are less likely to keep secrets from you. As a matter of fact, they’ll probably end up telling you more than they tell their friends.
Know what your kids are doing on-line. No child under the age of 13 should be on-line without your permission. Even then, make sure there are parenting controls and they are not on any social sites like Facebook or Twitter. They are simply too young for these open sites. You cannot put parenting controls on Social Media … it’s open. On-line gaming is also inappropriate for young children.
Educate your children on predators. Use the above opening paragraph to let them know that if they don’t personally know who they are talking to, they may very well be talking to some creepy old man sitting in his underwear … say whatever you have to in order to give them a mental picture of YUCK!
Tell them scary stories about kids who have been victims of on-line predators. You don’t have to make these stories up, just look it up in the news. There have been hundreds of youths lured away from home by on-line predators. I’m all for scaring children to keep them safe. If they’re afraid of the internet, so what?!
Remember, it’s not up to Facebook, Twitter, or any other site or app to keep your children safe. That’s your job.
Did you notice I didn’t talk about the mechanics of how to prevent your teenager from doing what they shouldn’t do on-line? What’s the point? They’re going to do what they want to do behind your back, there’s always a way. The only way to really keep them safe is to make sure you have a really strong bond with them so they will respect and listen to you. That’s about relationship building and that’s a whole other article.
If worse comes to worse and you find out your teenager is planning on meeting up with an on-line stranger; stop them by any means possible. I had a client in this situation and the daughter was about to run away to meet with on-line “boyfriend”. I instructed the parents to tell the daughter she could meet this “boyfriend” but that they were going to drive her to meet with him. We went through a lot of steps to get to that point, but by the time the young girl was ready to meet him she had agreed to let her parents drive her to meet Romeo (blah!!!) and he, of course, cut off contact with her. There’s nothing like the threat of us parents to scare off predators.
I can’t tell you all the steps we went through to get that girl to trust her parents as it’s different with every family. What worked for them may not work for other families and could even drive them further apart. I was talking to the girl on the side so had inside information from her. I don’t always need that but it sure makes my job a lot easier.
If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Lisa Bunnage, Parenting Coach (phone: 604-944-7479 – email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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