Is Your Teen At-Risk Online? Clues to Be Aware Of

Do you knowwho your teen is chatting with virtually?

Fact: Teens spend more time than ever before – online.

Fact: More teens know a lot more about technology than most adults.

Fact: Most teens know more about the Internet than their parents.

Are these facts in your home?  It is reality that technology is growing at the speed of lightening.  Before you can buy a new computer or cell phone, a new, upgraded and improved one is created.  How many of you are waiting for April for the new iPad?

What are signs that your teen or child might be at risk online?

Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.

Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. They may go on-line after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go on-line to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent on-line.

Children on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.

You find pornography on your child’s computer.

Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is “normal.” Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them. This may be especially true if the computer is used by other family members.

Your child receives phone calls from men you don’t know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don’t recognize.

While talking to a child victim on-line is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often engage in “phone sex” with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex.

While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they can readily find out the child’s phone number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child’s phone number.

Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.

As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.

Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.

A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.

Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.

Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.

Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.

Even if you don’t subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend’s house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.

Source: FBI Parent Guide to Internet Safety

Internet Predators do not discriminate, any child or teen is at risk if not properly taught about how to stay safe in cyberspace.

In Broward County, Mother’s Against Predators (MAP) was formed to help educate and inform parents, teachers and the community about the warning signs of predators as well as tech tips we all can use.

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