The Safety Crew

Online Predators

How does an Online Predator's Accomplish their Goal?

They find kids through social networking, blogs, chat rooms, instant messaging, email, discussion boards, and other websites. An online predator then seduces their targets through attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. They listen to and sympathize with kids' problems. Predators eventually try to ease young people's inhibitions by gradually introducing sexual content into their conversations or by showing them sexually explicit material. Some predators might also evaluate the kids they meet online for future face-to-face contact.

How to Prevent Online Predators?

Parents and Teen chart
  • Talk to your kids about sexual predators and potential online dangers.
  • Use parental control software that's built into new operating systems like Windows 7 or Windows Vista or that you can download for free like Windows Live Family Safety Settings.
  • Follow age limits on social networking websites. Most social networking sites require that users be age 13 and over. If your children are under the recommended age for these sites, do not let them use them.
  • Young children should not use chat rooms-the dangers are too great. As children get older, direct them towards well-monitored kids' chat rooms. Encourage even your teens to use monitored chat rooms.
  • If your children take part in chat rooms, make sure you know which ones they visit and with whom they talk. Monitor the chat areas yourself to see what kind of conversations take place.
  • Instruct your children to never leave the chat room's public area. Many chat rooms offer private areas where users can have one-on-one chats with other users-chat monitors can't read these conversations. These are often referred to as "whisper" areas.
  • Keep the Internet-connected computer in a common area of the house, never in a child's bedroom. It is much more difficult for a predator to establish a relationship with your child if the computer screen is easily visible. Even when the computer is in a public area of your home, sit with your child when they are online.
  • When your children are young, they should share the family email address rather than have their own email accounts. As they get older, you can ask your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to set up a separate email address, but your children's mail can still reside in your account.
  • Tell your children to never respond to instant messaging or emails from strangers. If your children use computers in places outside your supervision-public library, school, or friends' homes-find out what computer safeguards are used.
  • If all precautions fail and your kids do meet an online predator, don't blame them. The offender always bears full responsibility. Take decisive action to stop your child from any further contact with this person.

What if your Child is an Online Predator's Target?

Check your computer for pornographic files or any type of sexual communication´┐Żthese are often warning signs. If your child receives sexually explicit photos from an online correspondent, or if she or he is solicited sexually in email, instant messaging, or some other way online, contact your local police. Save any documentation including email addresses, website addresses, and chat logs to share with the police. Afterwards, monitor your child's access to all live electronic communications, such as chat rooms, instant messaging, and email.

Resources

Microsoft - Safety and Security
Web Awareness