10 Signs your Child Could be Talking to an Online Predator

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There’s nothing more deceitful than having an adult predator infiltrate the safety of your home through your child’s screen. Below we listed some red flags that your teen could be talking to an online predator.

Spending Excessive Time Online During Late Hours

Although predators prowl the internet at all hours of the day, children are at the greatest risk for being exposed to a predator in the evening. This is because most predators work day jobs and navigate the web at night after work. Children who have 24/7 access to the internet through a phone or computer are also more secluded in their room at night  when there is no parental supervision.

Constantly Receives Phone Calls and Texts from People you Don't Know

If you see a random name or number keep buzzing your child’s phone, don’t hesitate to ask them who their new friend is, how they met, their name, and where they live.

The New Friend Comes out of the Blue

Predators normally find children and initiate conversation with a simple “hello”, then progress to asking about their age, school, address, etc. Most of the time this person is a new player in an online game or a new follower on social media.

Get Irrationally Upset when they Can’t Get Online

Don’t assume your child is just being a brat when they throw a fit about no internet, there could always be a deeper reason. Victims of online grooming often think the predator is their friend or significant other, because of this they don’t want them to get mad if they aren’t online to chat. 

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They Switch Screens or Hide Their Phone When you Walk by

Often times, the predator urges the child to keep their relationship a secret or they could be talking about things your child knows is inappropriate. In these cases, they will try and hide what they are doing online when you are around.

They Start to Withdraw from Activities they Once Loved

One tactic a predator does is isolate and separate the child from family, friends, and activities they once enjoyed. They may convince them that their family doesn’t understand them, and then assert that the predator does. This is a trick used on lonely teenagers, especially when they are going through a hard time or may not have many friends.

Gifts Received from Unknown Sources

Predators try to win over teens with gifts, compliments, and faux kindness. They give children their undivided attention, sympathy, and affection. They normally seem too mushy after only a few messages and want to appear as the knight in shining armour.

You Find Pornography on their Device

A study by Crimes Against Children Research Center revealed that 25% of children have been exposed to unwanted pornographic content online. Predators will send a victim pornography to try and normalize and desensitize sex to them.

Turning Normal Conversations Sexual

Predators like to turn average conversations into physical intimacy. They often share explicit photos and videos, and try to convince the victims to engage in pornography or cybersex.

They’re Keeping the Relationship a Secret

Since the predator knows what they are doing is wrong, they have the child promise to keep their relationship a secret. Victims are unlikely to be transparent about their new “friend” with an adult because they feel uncomfortable and because they feel like they are betraying their “friend”.  

We should note that just because your child ticks one or two of these boxes doesn’t mean that they are talking to an online predator. However, if they are showing a few of these signs, then you should step in and have an honest conversation with them.

To read more about online safety, click here.

What’s Online Grooming and How Can I Protect my Child?

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As insidious as it is, the largest danger to your child could be right inside your house as your child plays on their phone.

With the rise in social media, online gaming, and digital technology, chatting with people across the globe has never been easier. Especially since most kids make their profiles public to gain more followers. The problem is, people are not always who they say they are. The danger? Children talking to predators online and not recognizing the red flags.

What is online grooming?

Online grooming is a term used to describe an adult predator who befriends children online through social media, online forums, and gaming with the purpose of taking advantage of them sexually. This is often a purposefully slow and methodical process. Below are the steps groomers  take.

Targeting

The groomer first has to get a point of contact. They do this by creating fake accounts on sites that target younger audiences and gaining their trust and friendship. They tend to target vulnerable children or children with less parental supervision. However, any child of any race, religion, and socioeconomic background is susceptible to becoming a victim.

Gaining Trust and Control

Once the groomer has the child’s trust they often urge them to keep their relationship a secret and may try to turn the child against their parents. Remember, groomers are ultimate manipulators and disguise their ulterior motives with charm and faux helpfulness.

Many times victims of grooming actually believed the predator was their significant other or friend. 

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Exploiting

Now that the groomer has trust and control over the child they start to push boundaries. They start off with small actions like, talking about sexual subjects, then move on to sending nude pictures, and then may ask to meet in person. This is all a process of desensitizing sex to the child and normalizing these kind of behaviors.

What are some Signs my Child is Being Groomed?

As a parent, it’s important to keep your eye out for certain behaviors that may signify your child is talking to a predator. Here are some common behavior changes:

●      Hiding their phone or switching windows on a laptop as you walk by

●      Increased obsessive behavior with spending time on the internet

●      Using sexual language you wouldn’t expect them to know

●      Emotionally lashing out or becoming more secluded

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What can I do

The most important thing you can do to prevent this is to have an open and honest conversation with your child about online safety and red flags.

Another popular preventive step is to download the app Bark. Bark is a service parents can use that monitors texts, emails, social networks, ect. for signs of harmful interactions and content. You then get alerts when the app detects a potential threat.

Moral of the story, be preventative, know the red flags of online grooming, and make sure your child knows these red flags too.

For more information on grooming and how to talk to your child about it, click here.

How to Talk to your Kids about Online Safety

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Nowadays parents are having “The Talk” earlier than ever. This talk used to be about the birds and the bees, but now it’s focused largely on online safety. It’s up to us as parents to help our children navigate this new online world and prepare them for cyber bullies and online predators.

A Pew Study revealed that 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one. Because of these connections, 45% of teens now say they are online on a near-constant basis. With all the time spent online, it’s crucial to have a plan in place. Below we give you tips on how to talk to your children about online safety.

Don’t Be Technophobic

It’s important to stay up-to-date in this digital era, you want to be relatable to your child. New technology can be a little daunting, especially if your nine-year-old is way more tech-savvy than you. Start with Youtube videos on topics you are unsure about as they are a great tool for educating and getting you up to speed on technology.

Don’t be afraid to sign yourself up for social media accounts like Instagram or Twitter. Even if you have no intention of posting, it’s worth getting one so you can understand the platform and follow your children and see what they are posting, and what others are commenting on their content.

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Educate Yourself 

First things first. Get educated about some of the main topics of online safety. 

Cyber bullying is one of the topics that have come to light since the internet exploded, it’s easy for kids to hide behind a screen and be mean to one another. According to a Harford County Examiner study, around half of teens have been the victims of cyberbullying and only 1 in 10 victims notify an adult about it. Being bullied online can lead to low self-esteem, depression and suicidal thoughts if not addressed.

Another topic of concern for most parents is the rise of social media. Some kids put their profiles on public so they get more followers. This allows anyone to be able to contact them and see their content. A study recently confirmed that 70% of groomers used Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. It’s important to make sure your child’s profiles are private and that they know the danger of sharing personal information online.

Finally, as mentioned above, online grooming is an issue that all parents should be educated about. This is when an adult targets children, gains their trust, and exploits them for sexual reasons. The Internet Watch Foundation found that 98% of victims are 13 or younger, and 96% of those victims were girls.  Most children who are groomed online believe that these predators are actually their friend or significant other. If the groomer gets far enough with a child, they can convince them to meet up and this is when abduction may occur. Long story short, tell your child to never chat with someone they don’t know online and never agree to meet a stranger or someone who they believe is a friend, but they met online. 

Other topics to research include online gaming like Fortnite, forum sites like Reddit, and chat rooms like Omegle.

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Establish Family Rules

Being on the internet can eat up a lot of time, and is unhealthy. Make some ground rules around online usage in your home. Some new rules could include:

●      The amount of time and the time of day that can be spent online

●      Have your child agree to never share personal information online and never agree to meet with a stranger or someone who they believe is a friend, but they met online

●      Always respect others online

●      Let an adult know if they feel uncomfortable with a website or person online

Have an Open Conversation

Establish your home as a safe space for your child to open up about questions and issues they have. Make sure to let them know if someone makes them feel uncomfortable to immediately let you know and to save the messages. Go through the different topics as listed above and have a genuine, non-judgemental conversation. It doesn’t matter how old your child is, it is never too late to have a conversation about online safety.

For more information on internet safety, click here.

8 Warning Signs of Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking

Know the Warning Signs

Child Sex Trafficking can hide in plain sight.

8 Warning Signs Learn the signs to be a better advocate for children in our community.

1. An older boyfriend.

A significantly older boyfriend creates an unequal power dynamic where a child can be easily controlled.

2. Change in mood or behavior.

A child is not able to process why and how they are in this situation. The trauma may manifest in changes to their personality.

3. Sexually explicit media presence or profile.

Sexually exploited children may appear sexually aggressive in their social media postings.

4. Material possessions they cannot afford or account for

It is illegal for a child to profit from sexual activity yet predators may manipulate, control and continue to exploit children by providing them phones, clothes, nails & hair.

5. Multiple sexually transmitted diseases.

Children should not contract STDs - especially multiple cases or occurrences of STDs.

6. Chronic runaway or homeless.

Children that repeatedly runaway may be trying to escape a bad situation or unknowningly returning to a controlling predator they believe will care for them.

7. Tattoos or branding.

Traffickers treat children as property and may mark the child with the trafficker's name or money signs.

8. Family history in commercial sex industry.

A family normalization of sex work makes a child especially vulnerable to being trafficked.

Learn more about how traffickers lure kids online, how traffickers manipulate kids, and how we can fight to end this! Take the FREE Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking 101 prevention and awareness class.

News Coverage of Domestic Violence Round Table featuring Georgia Cares

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

This year The Domestic Violence Roundtable, Inc. invited Micah’s Promise to host the Quarterly Lunch & Learn.

With an estimated 200-300 girls trafficked monthly in Georgia no community is immune to this epidemic. Micah’s Promise was able to bring in a special speaker from Georgia Cares.

Georgia Cares Program Director Robyn Windibank alongside Micah’s Promise Executive Director Bobbi Starr shared the latest statistics on victimized children in our state and how Columbus citizens can fight domestic minor sex trafficking locally.

For the full news story visit WRBL at https://www.wrbl.com/news/local-news/local-organizations-and-leaders-are-looking-to-combat-domestic-minor-sex-trafficking/1694568761

A room full of concerned citizens or as we like to call them FREEDOM FIGHTERS!

Bobbi Starr (right) sharing the local impact Micah’s Promise is making while partnering with statewide groups with Georgia Cares Operations Program Director Robyn Windibank (left).

News Anchors Phil Scoggins and Teresa Whitaker

Rhonda Dial, Domestic Violence Roundtable President

Robyn Windibank, Operations Program Director of Georgia Cares, shares as Bobbi Starr looks on

Truth

 By Patti Kelly

We all have stories where life was going along fairly predictable, comfortable and then an incident happens that shatters us.  It can be something we’ve done, something done to us, or something that happens around us but our world becomes unstable and unpredictable and we come to brokenness like we’ve never known before.  In my brokenness, lies kept me in bondage to shame, guilt and feeling alone, convincing me that no one could ever care or understand.

When I was saved, I finally knew that God understood.  He saw it all and he knew the pain.  And I wanted to be set free from the past – I really did – but God knowing and being known by him didn’t change how I viewed myself.  Even knowing how he viewed me and loved me didn’t go to the dark recesses of my soul where the lies still stood in sharp contrast to God’s truth.  Oh this wretched soul was saved, but in the deep recesses of my soul I was still in a prison of my secret shame and fear.

It took me going back and facing my past by shining a light in all of the dark places of my soul and challenging the lies, and facing the fear head on, to truly make peace with the past.

Making peace with the past allowed me to replace the lies I held with the truth of who I am in Christ!  New name, new identity, new beginning!  We aren’t called to live desolate, alone, afraid, ashamed, guilty, like Tamar, the princess daughter of King David!  We are called to the fullness and richness of life in Christ! 

Yes I may have been broken, damaged, battered, abused, but the new truth is I am born again.  The old is gone and the new has come.  I will claim my identity as a child of the most high who tells me I am clay in the potters hand; I am God’s handiwork, a masterpiece – uniquely created for good works.  He takes what is broken, damaged, battered, abused and makes something more beautiful than the original!

Yes I used to believe that my life is too big of a mess, too tangled, too heavy, too much to share, and no one cared – but – the lover of my soul unties the knots that bind us, lifts the burdens that are too heavy, and is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.  Nothing is too great for him!

I have replaced the lies of “Alone, unlovable, worthless” –  with the truth that with my redeemer I am never alone, that not death nor life, angel or demons, nor the present or the future, no power whether above or below, that nothing in all of creation can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. -  I am a child of God, an heir, I am known – even the hairs of my head are numbered.

The liar claims that I am Weak and afraid – the truth is I don’t have a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.  I am able to do all things through Christ who strengthens me.  For when I am weak, I am strong.  I am more than a conqueror!  I have been set free and I am no longer in bondage to a spirit of fear.  I am loved and chosen, because the gospel has given me power, the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.  I have suffered grief in many trials, but these have strengthened my faith which is worth more than gold.  I am an overcomer.  I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood,  a holy nation, a purchased people, called out of the darkness into his marvelous light.   He who is in me is greater than the one in the world. 

Your story is my story and is his story!  It’s true that in this fallen world we are broken, we are hurt, we are orphaned, and we lose our identity and our name.  But the story of our life isn’t over!  Our story is still being written and the ending is yet to come!  And we are co-authors with Christ and we get to choose the rest of our story!  God still replaces ashes with a crown of beauty, still gives us the oil of joy instead mourning, and still bestows on us a garment of praise out of despair.  Captives are still being set free!  We do belong, to his family.  We are known and loved, by Him!  The King really sent His Son to rescue his beloved princess from captivity and bring her home to the kingdom that cannot be shaken; to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to God, a consuming fire, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect… to Jesus. 

Let God into the secret places, name the lies of the enemy that have taken root, and hold them up to the light of God’s word to reveal the truth!  It is a battle, but it is a battle worth fighting because you are worth fighting for.  And you are not alone!  God is with you and He is for you!  Read who you are in Christ until the old lies are replaced with TRUTH!  Truth doesn’t change.  It’s the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Lies on the other hand are tricky things and will shift and will whisper “yes, but”.  That is the enemy!  Doubt, confusion and half-truths!  Beloved, meditate on the real truth in scripture about who God says you are in Christ until you really believe it in your heart, soul and mind!       

 

 

 

 

Brave

A little over a week ago when I went to read my Bible, the pages opened to Judges Chapter 1 so I started reading there.  I read through Judges, Ruth and am still reading 1 Samuel.  It really was more captivating than I remembered (no pun intended) and I knew that God would speak to me through His word, so I just read and waited.