Talking to children and teenagers about online stalkers gives them the tools they need to manage in a digital world.
All parents or guardians worry about online predators at some time. And although it is prudent to be cautious, the facts show that it is actually quite rare for children to be contacted by unknown adults seeking sexual communication. Of course, it is natural to worry when your child enters an unknown world. But instead of acting on impulse, based on most occasions in fear, arm yourself with the knowledge so you can help your child act in the most cunning, cautious and intelligent way possible. If the concerns described below prove to be true, use one of these strategies to be proactive and protect your children, they will make them safer and help you feel much better.
Every time I read the news, I find an article about a degenerate who tried to contact a child in a game.
- According to the Study on Internet Youth Safety at the University of New Hampshire, reports of unwanted sexual applications fell by 53% between 2000 and 2010. By 2010 only 9% of children using the Internet received an unwanted sexual request.
- The report also found that two specific types of contact – requests for offline meetings and situations that children found extremely disturbing – fell between 2005 and 2010.
- When there is a report about an online stalker (as in the case of Roblox in 2017), multiple news portals are released on the story, and usually appear in many media for a week or two, so it can give the impression that it is more common than it really is. In addition, they turn out to be viral items, since they play with the fears of the parents or guardians of the children.
- The Center for Investigation Against Child Crimes at the University of New Hampshire warns that children are more likely to be pressured among themselves to send or publish sexual content than by an adult.
Rather than inspiring fear in our children, we should provide them with information. So when you talk to them, explain to them that there is the possibility of someone approaching them through the internet to obtain personal information about them, exchange photographs or propose meetings in person. It is not the norm, and it is no reason to feel scared all the time. It is simply a reason to be alert and know that if someone starts asking for personal information or talking about things related to sex, it is time to seek help from an adult.
I can’t follow all the means my children use, so I don’t know what games and applications I should be aware of and alert.
- According to the New England Public Policy Journal, contact with online stalkers happens mostly in chat rooms, on social networks or in the chat function of multiplayer games (Roblox, Minecraft, Clash of Clans, World of Warcraft, among others).
- Most games for children – such as Roblox and Animal Jam – have built-in functions that are designed to prevent inappropriate comments. Although these functions usually have failures, they do help.
- Games that have not been designed for children only have fewer controls, functions and protection guarantees.
- Any application or online space that allows contact with strangers without moderation or age verification can allow contact between children and strangers.
- Teenagers sometimes visit adult websites, chat rooms, and dating applications out of curiosity regarding sex and romance.
First, stay aware of what your children do online by asking them what apps, games and other media they use. If they are on social networks, become a friend or follow them. Set rules regarding the time and websites where they can use their devices – for example, prohibiting the use of tablets and phones while in their rooms. See how they chat – do they do it through an application or through the messaging of their phones? (If they use an application, it will not be easy for you to see it, so request occasional reviews.) Establish rules about who they can chat with, for example, only with people they know in real life. If your son is a gamer, ask these questions to make a deeper survey: Do you like multiplayer games and why? Do you chat with others while you play? How has your experience been so far? What would you do if someone you don’t know contacts you? Help them adjust the privacy of their devices to limit contacts in their games.
I don’t even understand how this works: Does an adult impersonate a child, and then ask them to meet personally?
- Only 5% of online stalkers pretend to be a child. The majority reveals that they are adults, which is especially attractive for children and adolescents between 12 and 15 years of age, who usually focus on.
- Some online stalkers begin sexual conversations or ask for photos immediately and go back if they are denied. They are in that medium for immediate results.
- In contrast, some predators are attracted to hunting, this being the process of choosing a potential victim for child sexual harassment: They seek a social network and public chat rooms to learn first about the child.
- When they already choose someone, they start with the bullying phase, which usually involves becoming friends with the goal, making personal conversations progressively increase in order to build trust, direct the means of conversation to other platforms (such as instant messaging), request photos, and finally the encounter offline.
- Sometimes, if a child shares a compromising photo, the bully will use it as a means of sexual extortion (commonly referred to as sextortion in English), which involves requesting more photos or contact under threat of exposing or harming them.
Normally, we tell children not to talk to strangers or share personal information, but a child’s relationship with another person can feel as real as those in their offline life. So, before they start chatting with anyone, children should know basic information about digital citizenship and online privacy. For example, children should never share their phone number, address, or even their last name with someone they don’t know. Also, sharing sexy photographs or being sexually open through the internet leaves an unwanted legacy, with or without lewd adults in between, so we need to teach our children to be aware of the impact of the fingerprints they leave. In addition, having nude photographs of a minor, even if you are a minor, violates the law, so teenagers may have legal problems. Finally, it is important to teach children that if someone asks them through a chat for sexy photos, that person is not their friend, no matter how cool or understanding it seems.
How can I even know if this happens to my son if he doesn’t tell me?
- Predators choose children who publish revealing photos and engage in online sexual conversations.
- There is research that attempts to determine the ages of greatest risk, although no consensus has been reached. Apparently, the highest risk ages are between 12 and 15 years old, and girls are victims more often than boys.
- Male adolescents who find themselves questioning their sexuality are the second highest risk group, because they tend to believe that talking about these issues online is safer than doing it in real life.
- Sometimes, teenagers push each other to contact strangers via the internet, and they can take it as a game.
- Teenagers seek to feel special, loved, attractive and understood at this time when they begin to take distance from their parents, so an older friend who is very interested in them can make them feel special and get excited.
- Most of the time, teenagers interact with bullies spontaneously, although most of the time they keep them a secret.
- If your child isolates himself and becomes reserved with his devices (he hides the screen, clicks to exit a window quickly), it could be an indicator.
- Calls and gifts from unknown people can be signals.
- If you have pornographic material on your device, it could also be a signal.
The complicated part is that most teenagers are isolated and reserved; It is part of its development. Yes, even so, you notice that this situation is extreme, it is cause for concern, no matter what the reason. Check your devices to monitor any risen posts or photos. Knowing something about your jargon can help, but open communication, without accusations or exaggerated reactions, is usually more effective.
This has already happened to my son and I don’t know what to do now.
- Your son told you.
- You saw something on their phone or on their social networks.
First, don’t panic. Instead, collect evidence: Get screenshots, save messages and take measures that go along this line. Talk with your child about the details without making him feel guilty or in trouble. Then, report it to the platform or service your child is using, block the person, and find the reporting functions together in other applications and games that he uses. Finally, contact the police. Although it seems like an isolated event that has ended, or you don’t want to give it too much importance, it is better for the authorities to know what has happened, especially if this person is a recognized aggressor. In this way, you will prevent and prevent other children from having to go through the same situation.
Monitor Kids Online to Ensure Their Safety
With all the strategies given above, be vigilant and keep and eye on your kids’ activities online. You can do this remotely with the use of FamilyTime parental monitoring app. The app allows you to do the following:
- Keep a check on their text messages, calls and contacts for any sign of trap
- See their internet history to know if they are involved in chat groups
- Check what mobile applications they are using
- Block social media apps and dangerous sexting applications
- Keep tabs on their location and manage their screen time.
- Filter adult content
Online stalkers are a real danger though not so common; hence, parents are suggested to take preventive actions. So, it is better to oversee their online behaviour with and advanced digital tool like this app. It is available for Android and iOS devices and can be downloaded from the respective stores.