Protecting your children from online predators means more than just educating them about the dangers of the Internet. Allowing your children to understand why online predators hunt for victims will allow them to take a more active role in their own safety.
You should start by explaining why online predators search for victims and why they use the Internet as a tool. These individuals may be shy criminals, or they may be brilliant masterminds taking advantage of the unsuspecting. They all have built-up emotions and needs that have not been satisfied and many of them believe they have the right to exert power over others. Some researchers believe that large percentage of online predators do not have control over their actions due to altered mental states.
Make it clear that online predators are not only men targeting young girls. Young boys and teenagers of both sexes are equal opportunity victims. Let your children know that an online predator can be a man or a woman. Protecting our sons is just as important as protecting our daughters as they are just as vulnerable.
Set strict guidelines for Internet use, regardless of whether or not your child chooses to use email, public chat rooms, or instant messaging programs. If your child is allowed to speak to strangers, the conversation should stay completely casual and should never involve the exchange of personal information even if the person in question insists he is trustworthy. Stay in the same room while your children are using the Internet. Doing so will enable you to constantly monitor their activity and make sure they are not putting themselves in harms way.
Staying active in your child’s life will reduce the chances of finding him a victim. Online predators tend to prey upon children and teens that feel lonely or need a shoulder to cry on. These vulnerable emotional states make it easy for predators to infiltrate your child’s life and gain trust. Remaining a stable and strong supporter will ensure your child always turns to you when in need of help instead of turning to a stranger.
There is nothing wrong with encouraging your children to use the Internet as a tool to learn about new cultures and different worlds. In fact, as long as you have taken the proper precautions, exploration and curiosity should be encouraged. With proper education and supervision, the Internet can be used safely and you can prevent your child from becoming a statistic.