As parents, we are called to guide, to teach, and to protect our offspring. In this day and age, our children are exposed to the online world daily, and it’s a world that has many pathways for perpetrators to reach them. What do we do? We empower them, educate them, and monitor their activity on the internet, and their engagement with the apps they use.
The reality is that in the online world, there are perpetrators that are seeking to harm our children. They know where children gather online, and they know where children spend most of their time, and that’s where they go. We must relay this information to our children in a way that they understand.
Children, tweens, and teenagers need to know the truth about what online predators seek to do. The apps that have a chatting platform that promises to connect you to other friends and help you meet interesting people are a dangerous platform for children. With the rise of sexting, prostitution, sexual exploitation, and third-party mobile apps, our children’s safety is a top priority.
Talk to your children. Tell them all the possible scenarios that they need to look out for and share with them real-life stories of what has happened to other children that have encountered those scenarios. Explain to your kids that the person that seeks to harm them wants to keep silent, but they need to speak of something that is happening.
Explain. Predators will not use a scary approach. Explain that instead, they will seem friendly, kind, and will show interest in you. Explain to your children the behaviors of a predator.
They will show immediate interest.
They tell you to keep the friendship a “secret.”
They will want to engage in long intimate conversations.
They will ask to see you.
They will promise gifts and favors.
They will also tell you about their life to make you feel a sense of comfort.
Over time, conversations will shift, and they will ask you to do things like send pictures or give them personal information about where you live and go to school.
Parents Need to Understand
Perpetrators groom children to remain silent. They rely on a child’s silence, and they also know that if a child feels too ashamed and guilty that it’ll guarantee their silence. You need to understand that your children will not come to you for help if you are quick to shame them about their actions.
You must reflect on what has been your parenting history response. Do you use shaming as a way to discipline and to get your children to apologize for something that they did? If so, you need to change approach because children will not speak if they already feel shame, and they know that you’ll shame them too.
It’s up to you to help your children feel safe comfortable. Start by building a relationship with your children that will not include overreaction. It’s the shock and overreaction that will shun them and keep them far from you.
Knowing the dangerous apps that are children are downloading is crucial to protecting them. The following is a list of potentially harmful apps:
What makes these apps dangerous is that these are open platforms to chat with others. Predators are on these sites scouting and looking for children because they prey on their vulnerability. The apps mentioned above give easy access to your children, which is why you must monitor your children when you see them on these apps.
Monitor their activity and limit their time. When we say monitor, we mean spend time with them on these apps in a way that isn’t investigative but rather engaging. Ask them to show you their friends and posts. Look at the comments on their posts and see if you can detect any patterns or if you see anything that catches your attention.
Empower your children. Give them the confidence that they need to navigate these apps with knowledge of what to look out for. Encourage them to speak up when they feel uncomfortable online. We can’t keep our children from using these apps, but we can promote and encourage online safety.