The Internet is becoming more and more dangerous by the day, and children are specially susceptible to become easy prey for cyberstalkers if some safety guidelines are not observed. The harsh reality is that the Internet is full of criminals who will stop at nothing in their attempts to exploit children in any way they can, and just by doing a simple search on Google children can end up into inappropriate webspaces that are prime hunting grounds for extremely dangerous child predators. Law enforcement officials estimate that more than 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment.
While some of these criminals primarily collect and trade child-pornographic images, others aim at having personal encounters with children. By using on-line communicating systems such as chat rooms or private messages in social media outlets, they gradually seduce some children by pretending to empathize with their problems and displaying a great deal of affection, which are sometimes followed by gifts. These individuals are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time and money in this process.
Every year children are starting to use the Internet and computers at a younger age, and every year statistics show that Internet-related crimes against children are on the rise. GuardChild.com has researched and compiled a list of Child Internet Crime and Abuse Statistics using sources such as The Pew Institute, The National Crime Prevention Center, The University of New Hampshire, Youth Internet Safety Survey, The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Crimes Against Children Resource Center, Child Exploitation and Online Protection and other resources. Among the most shocking statistics are:
- 22% of teenage girls say they posted nude or semi-nude photos or videos of themselves online.
- The largest group of Internet porn consumers is children ages 12-17.
- 86% of girls claimed to be able to conduct online chats without their parents knowing, 57% could read their parents’ e-mail, and 54% could conduct a cyber relationship.
- 20% of teenaged Internet users have been the target of an unwanted sexual solicitation (requests for sexual activities, chat, or information).
- 41% of unwanted sexual solicitations, 29% of unwanted exposure to sexual materials, and 31% of harassment occurred when children were online with their friends.
- 20% of all Internet pornography involves children, with more than 20,000 new images posted weekly.
- 96% of teens use social networking applications such as Facebook, MySpace, Chat rooms, and blogs.
- 69% of teens regularly receive online communications from strangers and don’t tell a parent or caretaker.
- An estimated 725,000 children have been “aggressively” asked for sex, defined as an offer to meet in person.
- Only 1/3 of households with Internet access are protecting their children with filtering or blocking software.
- Approximately 116,000 child pornography requests are made daily on the Internet.
- 1 in 5 youth ages 10 to 17 received a sexual solicitation or were approached online.
In order to protect children from on-line dangers, parents should watch for signs of suspicious activities and monitor their kids’ online activities closely to see if they are being cyber-stalked. Not only will they be better protected in the long run, but it will also give parents some peace of mind.
Keep your child’s computer out in the open
If your child has a computer tucked away in the privacy of their own room, they could be tempted to do things that they should not be doing. If their computer is stationed in the living room or home office, that lack of privacy will probably keep them from venturing off into online places where they don’t belong. Having your child use a computer that is in a social area of your home will also help you interact with them more while they are online.
Solicit the help of parental controls
If you are like most parents, you cannot be at your child’s side at all times. This makes monitoring them a tough task. Still, thanks to technology, such a problem is not impossible to overcome, due to parental controls. There is plenty of software on the market that will institute parental controls and blocks on your child’s computer. Even better, some Internet service providers offer similar services at no cost. By using parental controls, you will be able to control the sites and content your child views as well as prevent them from revealing personal information.
Make written rules for your child to follow
You may have spoken to your children about their online habits and the dangers that exist on the Internet. Still, if you know how children are, you know that things they are told are usually in one ear and out the other. To make your words stick, you should put them down on paper. Write or type your rules and put your list right next to the computer they use. This can serve as a constant reminder, and it will also help them feel as if they are being monitored when you are not around.
Keep track of your child’s online profiles and email
Social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace are valuable in helping your child interact online with friends. At the same time, they can be breeding grounds for predators and other unsavory characters. For this reason, you should monitor any profiles or email accounts that your children use. Not only should you be aware that they have them, but you should also request passwords to make sure nothing suspicious takes place.
Familiarize yourself with your child’s online contacts
Social networks, instant messaging programs, and more offer ways for your child to meet new people. If they meet someone new that they correspond with regularly, have them introduce you to the person online. Not only will the person know that your child is being monitored, but you will also see who your child is communicating with.
These are just some online safety tips to exercise with your child. While there are many more you can practice, beginning with these sets a solid foundation to keep your child better protected while surfing the Internet.
More information on this topic can be found at:
- Internet Tips For Parents
- FBI: A Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety
- How to Protect Your Children on the Internet – 20 Tips