How to Safeguard Your Kids from Online Predators
In this week’s podcast episode, we sat down with Sandra Stibbards, of Camelot Investigations to discuss internet safety or the lack thereof. When it comes to free access to the internet, Sandra says it’s simple, children shouldn’t have it period. There are however, things you can do to help safeguard your kids while they’re online.
Predators no longer have boundaries or a “type” of child they target. Everyone is now a potential victim and with so many children unmonitored, there’s an endless amount of potential victims. Sandra encourages parents to understand, it’s not that their kids are bad, it’s the predators coming after them. “If they tap on something that is enticing, looks like something fun, they’re into a site that looks completely innocent and it’s not. It’s created or maintained by predators or predators visit those sites looking for victims.”
The goal is instilling dangerous things, ideologies, messages, and to isolate kids from their parent. This doesn’t happen overnight, predators are patient, and she says they work on developing relationships with your children, convincing your child over time they love them the most. The goal is to take children away from the parents emotionally, and then physically. There are several ways to accomplish this. One is to seek out knowledge from social media posts from friends or mutual contacts and then using it in area of contact, like chat rooms in popular kids’ games.
Sandra stresses every child from the time they can use an electronic device into high school can easily fall victim to savvy predators and parents have to be diligent. When you set up any app, game or any device, parents must be present and put protective controls on the devices. Parents should also be present while using devices, so everything is monitored. Again, it’s not that you don’t trust your children, it’s you don’t trust the predators.
In today’s internet world, one of the trends is to use YouTube to post videos that are animated, look extremely kid friends. Some of them are even knockoffs of popular cartoon characters. However, the messaging is dangerous, anything from enticing children to do drugs, ingest fatal items or pornography. Predators, in particular, want to normalize deviant sexual behavior. Here’s a statistic we pulled. GuardChild reports “Approximately 116,000 child pornography requests are made daily on the Internet and 1 in 5 youth ages 10 to 17 received a sexual solicitation or were approached online.” Sandra says this is not off the grid, this is not far-fetched, parents need to understand the threat is real and worst-case scenario, it could cost you your child.
- Engaging in sexual conversation/role-playing as a grooming method, rather than a goal.
- Asking the child for sexually explicit images of themselves or mutually sharing images.
- Developing a rapport through compliments, discussing shared interests or “liking” their online post, also known as grooming.
- Sending or offering sexually explicit images of themselves.
- Pretending to be younger.
- Offering an incentive such as a gift card, alcohol, drugs, lodging, transportation or food.
Sandra points out something else to be aware of, just because a device comes home from the school, doesn’t mean it has any controls or protections on it. Parents should have regular discussions with teachers and administrators.
The number one thing to do, most important in any of this, is to talk with your children. Sandra gave us her check-list for parents.
- Reassure your children that you trust them, but not those unknowns lurking online.
- Be honest with your children and let them know you are protecting them, not punishing them.
- Use K9 Web Protection, a free software that blocks harmful online content, to protect your child’s devices. Here is the safe URL to download this software: https://k9-web-protection.en.softonic.com/.
- Add monitoring software to your child’s device to continue to protect them as they get older and become more curious. Top 10 Best Phone Monitoring Apps of 2023 (familyonlinesafety.com)
- Be mindful of sites that allow chatting, and do not permit any type of chatting for younger children. There are gaming sites that are set up for even the very young children. Yet, they allow chatting. I highly recommend not permitting any type of chatting at the younger ages. These are the types of platforms where predators will surveil and look for options to connect with your child.
- Speak with your children to make sure they do not get into conversations with anyone unless they know them personally from a face-to-face relationship. ***As your children get older, it becomes more difficult to limit the chatting.*** That’s why this rule is so important. Make sure your child knows people are pretending to be other people/kids online.
- Do NOT give out your child’s real information. Use pen names and misinformation about location, age, family members, school, and frequented places to keep real identifiers from any type of online account. This prevents a sexual predator from finding your children.
- Remind your children not to post images of themselves, as there could be identifiers in the background that provide predators with more information about them and their family. This goes for parents too. No pictures with school names or gym names.
Watch the video below to hear the entire conversation and reach out to TNG or Sandra for more information. For more episodes of “Time to Head North,” visit us here or listen through iTunes, Spotify or Podbean.