• Nicole Escobar

Online Chat Rooms and Games are Hunting Grounds for Sexual Predators

Predators know where to find kids. They perceive vulnerability, and they know how children operate. These individuals portray themselves as children and spark up conversations to gradually build trust. These conversations include fake sob stories that are considered pity bait to reel in a child’s trust factor to gradually get them to share sexual photos.

Child sexual exploitation is running rampant. The online world is increasingly becoming more and more dangerous. The New York Times reported that a 13-teen-year-old child was exposed to a pop-up video on bestiality involving a young boy. This is insane, and what is most alarming is the fact that we cannot control pop-ups entirely. But what we can do is educate our children and help them feel comfortable speaking coming to us for help and guidance, and when they’re exposed to discomforting images or interactions.

How can you protect your children?

Teach them how to block users. If they personally do not know who they are engaging with, then those people need to be blocked. Making this clear can help children become aware that interacting with strangers is dangerous.

One of the things that we can do to protect our children further is that we can set up parental controls on the Google Play store. And although this won’t entirely prevent children from seeing restricted content, it won’t allow your children to download content that is outside the rating that you’ve set. You can also use parental controls on your child’s phone or other devices.

Encourage open conversations with your children about the kind of content that they will come across online. Prepare their minds to identify inappropriate content. Set up their phones and other devices to send you a notification when they try to download an app. And this can be a point of conversation to discuss whether it’s safe or not.

Apps and Ways to Protect Children

There is an app called TeenSafe in which you get a mirror of the text that your child sends or receives. Another helpful app is called Surfie, and it helps you track your child’s online activity. It’s not about bombarding your child and becoming a helicopter parent. However, your involvement in their daily online activity is your concern. As parents, we are responsible for taking care of our children, and we should go great lengths to do so.

Another tip would be to use a power strip to keep limits on the screens. All home devices can be charged on one power strip in a parent’s room and the idea to develop a technology culture within the home where all devices cannot be used after a particular time. Also, if you have a family room, it would be wise to set up a family computer area where the screen is visible so that you’ll be able to see what your children are doing.

Be the Example

We must model the behavior that we’d like to see in our children. We, too, must control and set limits to our own use of technology and the time we spend online. Rules need to be set in place for parents and children alike. Remember, the more time your children spend online the more chances they have of encountering inappropriate content or experience chatting with people who don’t have their best interest at heart. Limit their time online.

Build a Bond

If you are not the first person your children go to for help, then there is something wrong. As parents, you should be a child’s haven, a place of security where they can go without fear of judgment and shaming. In most cases, children don’t tell their parents because either they haven’t established a close relationship with parents, they don’t feel comfortable talking to parents, or they are afraid of being in trouble/punished.

Cultivate a stable relationship with your children. If they love playing video games, then you too must play with them. Be involved in the games they play and know precisely what games they’re playing. Become present in their lives and learn about what they enjoy and why. And if they ever tell you something truly alarming, pause and don’t react. Just let them speak their mind and allow them a space to talk. Become silent as they open up to you, completely judgment-free. Be attentive, empathetic, and supportive always. Build an unbreakable bond with a foundation of love and understanding.

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