Safe Practices

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.

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.