The Internet can be a dangerous place for young children and teenagers. It is rich and fertile ground for sexual predators to target kids-which is why it’s vitally important for parents and guardians to educate children about taking responsibility and being cautious and safe while navigating the Internet Super Highway.

This article will address some of the dangers and offer some tips and advice for reducing the risks of your child falling victim to online sexual predators.

Step 1

Look for these signs that your child is at risk of falling victim to an online sexual predator:

* Spending too much time on the computer, especially after dinner and throughout the evening. Most online predators work during the day and can only communicate at night.

* The child is withdrawn and reluctant to spend time with family, friends or social activities. Isolation is a strong tactic that most sexual predators or abusers use to control their victims.

* Finding pornography or sexually explicit images on your child’s computer is a big red flag and should be addressed immediately. There is no reason why an underage child should be storing or watching any type of pornography. Most sexual predators like to engage the child in sexual images as a means to increase their curiosity and later seduce them into acting it out. Most children are instructed by their predators to hide the images or videos either on memory disks or external drives.

Step 2

Observe behavioral changes in your child. Switching off the computer or changing the monitor screen when an adult enters their room or approaches indicates they may be hiding something. Spending vast amounts of time isolated from family or locked up in their rooms on the computer are other red flags.

Step 3

COMMUNICATION is key in reducing the risk of children falling victim to sexual predators. Talk to your child about the dangers on the Internet. Spend time with your child on the computer and find out what types of sites he or she is visiting and who are they communicating with. Most online chat rooms are fertile ground for sexual predators to target potential victims.

Step 4

MONITOR your child’s activities and time spent on the computer; they should not be spending most of their time on the Internet. It is important to maintain a balance and to incorporate other forms of physical and mental activities in a child’s daily routine. Family and social interactions are vitally important to the well-being and development of a child. Keep your child’s computer in a common area and not in the child’s bedroom. This way you can periodically view the activity and monitor the time and type of interactions your child is engaged in online.

Step 5

REVIEW the content of your child’s computer on a weekly basis. Check to see the most frequented destinations and sites. Look to see the type of emails or instant messages that the child is receiving or sending. Make sure that there are no sexually explicit or pornographic images on the computer. Remember, your child could be hiding the images on separate storage disks or memory cards, so it is important to address this issue if you suspect they possess this type of material.

Step 6

PARENTAL CONTROL is extremely important if you want to reduce the risks of your child falling prey to online sexual predators. Most Internet service providers can block certain software or adult sites if you request it. Limit the amount of time your child spends at home online and monitor their Internet access at local libraries and at their friends’ houses as well.

Tips & Warnings

For more information about at-risk children, visit the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) or the National Center for Missing and Exploitation of Children websites (see Resources below).

Contact local and state law enforcement agencies if your child has or is receiving pornographic images or materials on the Internet or via U.S. Mail. It is against the law in the United States to solicit a child under the age of 18 with this type of material.

Federal Bureau of Investigation
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention

Dr. Jewell is a published writer and author for several popular online sites. She is the resident Health Expert for www.eHow.com a popular destination online site for many How To articles with well over 50 million unique visitors each month.www.eHow.com/members/drjewell.html.
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