by Wendy McLellan MA, LCDPII
Millions of children and teens are on the Internet everyday. They surf web pages, get their email and chat with their friends. Most parents believe this is harmless, except that our kids are being targeted everyday by predators on the Internet.
Let’s explore some of the characteristics of a child predator. The average child predator is male and over the age of 25. He could be considered “the guy down the street who kept to himself”. The loner type, very few friends and typically not married. A child predator most often has limited social skills, but a propensity to engage in conversation with an adolescent or child. This individual will tend to become shy with adults of his own age. He tends to seek out jobs that allow him to work around children, such as a baseball or basketball coach, Boy Scout leader, janitor or teacher at the school.
Child predators usually see nothing wrong with their behavior. Child predators come from all walks of life, some are rich, some are poor, some are educated and some are not. They usually have a sexually abusive or violent background histories. Child predators will “target” numerous children at one time. Their words are cunning and they take their time to “groom” their victims. “Grooming” is done by showering their victims with gifts, signs of affection and anything else they can, in order to build trust and a relationship with potential victims. Once trust is built, blackmail and guilt are sometimes used to get the child to succumb to their demands.
The Child Internet predator will utilize any or all of these techniques online. They will often times mask their age and state that they are around the same age as your child. They will stalk the Internet sites that most children and teens regularly visit. Hiding behind their computer screen, waiting patiently and then attacking their prey, our children.
How can you tell if your child is at risk? Your child may turn off the computer suddenly when you enter the room. Your child may be receiving gifts from others that you do not know. They may become more secretive about what they are doing online and usually spend more than an hour a day on the Internet. You may see long distance phone numbers that you do not recognize or they may receive phone calls from people that you are not familiar with. These are all signs that your child may be at risk.
As a parent, what can you do? One of the best ways to keep your child safe online is to create open dialogue with your child and to set clear rules regarding computer and Internet usage. You will also need to understand what your child is doing online. Learning more about how your child uses the Internet and whom they talk to in emails and instant message chat rooms can do this. You may also consider utilizing Internet monitoring tools to keep tabs on your child’s activity. One organization that has combined both parental monitoring tools and tools to translate the litany of instant message acronyms is Safe Computer Kids. They have recently launched their website at www.safecomputerkids.com. You can contact them at 866-846-6464 or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a counselor for more than sixteen years, working with adolescents, adults and families, I have yet to meet a sexual offender who has been completely cured with treatment and have all too often seen the devastating results of their actions.
About the Author
Wendy McLellan is a licensed mental health and substance abuse counselor, with more than sixteen years of experience. She has recently devoted time to the efforts of http://www.safecomputerkids.com in their goal to provide parental internet safety tools and resources to the public.