Parents will do everything in their power to protect their children from a predator. Problem is, things have changed and these criminals have become invisible - hanging out on the Internet. Invisible as they may be, they are very real and a serious threat to the safety of our children.
This is a new era where parents must be knowledgeable about these dangers. You must take a greater interest and more active role in what is, or might be, happening to your children.
In a recent August Deseret News newspaper article, a mother talked about the agony she and her husband went through as they and the police searched for their missing daughter, who it appeared had been lured away by an older man via the Internet. Fortunately, she was found safe. Her parents have now taken a much more proactive role in making sure such a terrible thing never happens to her again.
After this harrowing experience, the mother said all she really wanted to do was move her family to a deserted location where there was no Internet access. Realizing this wasn't the answer she said, "My plan is to just get more involved, like make her really try to understand what just happened, what the commotion was all about, why we were upset. And I want to help her see what real friends are by making her look at my Facebook page and let her see what real friends look like and what kinds of things real friends say."
When they searched their daughter's Facebook friends they found 1,000 people the girl didn't even know. Kids need to understand how dangerous this is.
In this same article Rod Layton, director of Weber-Morgan Children's Justice Center, said "Law enforcement doesn't fix anything. We don't prevent a single thing. We clean it up." He said, "The best solution to the problem is for parents to educate their children and have frank discussions with their daughters."
Websites that may help
Some state governments are becoming more involved in helping protect children from Internet predators. For example, the state of Idaho has posted a site to help parents be better equipped. It can be viewed at http://www.ag.idaho.gov/internetSafety/protecTeens.html. We also suggest you look for helps your own state may be offering.
On the website PureSight: Online Child Safety, the following statistics are posted to help inform parents.
One in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the Internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web. Solicitations were defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give out personal sexual information. (Only 25 percent of those told a parent)
Internet sexual predators tend to fall between the ages of 18 and 55, although some are older or younger. Their targets tend to be between the ages of 11 and 15.
In 100 percent of the cases, teens that are victims of sexual predators have gone willingly to meet with them.
Teens are willing to meet with strangers: 16 percent of teens considered meeting someone they've only talked to online and 8 percent have actually met someone they only knew online.
75 percent of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services.
4 important things to do
1. Creating a close relationship
with your daughter is the most important thing you can do to help prevent her from getting caught in this trap. That means you win her confidence with your love and understanding. Tell her how important it is for her to confide in you if someone online is asking for personal information or using sexual talk. Listen to her without criticism when she shares information with you.
2. Be aware of what she is doing on Facebook and other social media sites
. Look at her sites and check them regularly, including their history. This includes cell phones and other electronic devices she may be using. These devices are to be used in family areas only, not in the privacy of her bedroom. Help her understand how important it is for her to be careful. This is a life-threatening situation and requires extreme caution.
3. Let her know she must
never give out personal information over the Internet
That includes: Her full name, age and birthdate, address, phone number, school schedule, and her Social Security number. Predators are good at locating this information if it's posted anywhere on her websites.
4. Talk about the importance of
keeping photos private,
and stress that she must never post a revealing picture of herself or anyone.
With continued effort parents can safeguard their children. It's not something you do once or twice. It takes a constant vigil. Your daughter's (and each of your children's) safety is worth whatever it takes.