This is probably not a question you ask yourself very often, if ever. It’s a scary question to even think about. But what is even scarier is if the answer is “Yes”. I would imagine that many of you reading this feel like you live in a safe neighborhood. You don’t see any predators roaming around. There have been no reports of suspicious persons lurking about. Plus you’ve told your kids not to talk to strangers or take candy from them many times and you’ve yet to hear from them that they have encountered one. So all in all, thinking about predators is not something that takes up a lot of your brain cells…until now.
What if a predator is already in your home? Living right under your nose? They may even go to bed with your children at night. Are you freaked out yet? Is that protection instinct kicking in? I hope so, because we need to stop looking out our windows for predators and start looking in our houses – in our kitchens, family rooms, dens and bedrooms. Predators aren’t coming through your windows; they’re coming through your Internet connection.
Lets look at some stats regarding online sexual predators and our kids:
- 89% of sexual solicitations happen in chat rooms or via instant messages
- 1 in 7 children are sexually solicited online
- 25% of children who have been solicited sexually online have not told their parents
- 64% of teens say that they do things online that they wouldn’t want their parents to know about
These stats make it clear that we should not assume our kids are safe when they go online. So, what are some of the warning signs we should be looking for that may indicate your child is in contact with an online predator? Here’s what the FBI says:
- Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
- You find pornography on your child’s computer.
- Your child receives phone calls from adults you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.
- Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
- Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
- Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
- Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.
Parents, we have a lot to think about regarding online predators and our kids. Look for the warning signs. Start asking your children questions about their online activities if some of the warning signs above seem to fit. Also, consider using parental controls, like X3watch that can help monitor your child’s activities online, and which can also block your kids from accessing risky areas like chatrooms. We all need to know if the answer to the question, “Is your child in contact with an online predator?” is “Yes”.