Online predators seek vulnerable youngsters to engage in manipulative and domineering sexual relationships. The fact that there are people out there who would seek to prey upon juveniles is terrifying for parents. Smartphones make a predator’s efforts easier as they provide a direct line of communication to teens who are regularly connected to the Internet.
Technology can be a positive, fun part of life. Many people, especially young adults, enjoy spending a lot of time online. Unfortunately, the digital world can have just as many dangers as the “real” world. Online predators are one of the greatest threats to your personal safety on the internet. An online predator is an adult who seeks to exploit youths for sexual or other harmful purposes. If you or someone you know is a teen who regularly uses the internet, take steps to stay safe. It is vital that you learn the warning signs of predators and know what steps to take if you encounter them. If you learn the signs and use your common sense, you can continue to stay safe online.
It can be difficult sometimes to spot the signs that a child has been contacted by or is actively engaging in an online relationship with a predator. Teens can go through several phases in a short time and odd behavior can seem normal while many signs that a teen is headed in the wrong direction can be symptoms of completely different issues entirely.
Predators lure children online in many different ways. They will browse through online dating sites for their prey, or they may create fake accounts on social media sites and pose as their victim’s peers. Discussion boards and chat rooms with adolescent themes are scoured to find impressionable minds to pique their interest. A predator’s goal is to earn trust and admiration so that they can meet in real life to the detriment of entire families.
Here are 10 red flags that a teen is being enticed online by a child predator.
1. Quickly closing a screen on the phone or ending a conversation as soon as parents enter a room.
When a child is doing something which they know they should not be doing, they will react as startled and begin to quickly make changes to whichever computer screen, tablet or smartphone they are using whenever their parents are within sight. Teens try to hide all sorts of browsing activity with computers and phones for many different reasons. Sometimes the reasons can be benign such as if they are embarrassed about liking a certain cartoon or maybe are planning a surprise. But far too often, a secret could be a big deal for a number of bad reasons. A teen that constantly has something to hide is likely having inappropriate relationships which they know their parents will not approve of.
2. A predator might pay special attention to a child and make him or her feel special.
They will get to know the child’s likes and dislikes very well. A predator is likely to try to win over the affection of his or her intended victim by sharing these likes. “I got us a box of your favorite candy to share.” or to an older child: “You like that band? That’s my favorite band. I could get us tickets to their next concert.”
3. Learn common traits of online predators.
Many online predators are looking to sexually exploit children or teens. They may be pedophiles or child molesters. There are many characteristics that are typical of predators.
- Generally, pedophiles are outgoing and engaging. If you meet someone online who seems overly friendly, be cautious.
- Child molesters actively target their prey. They might use the internet to seek out a child they know from the neighborhood, work, or school.
- Be aware that online predators can be complete strangers or someone you actually know.
4. Watch out for flattery.
Online predators often try to emotionally manipulate their prey. They may offer compliments as a way to gain favor. Be wary of effusive flattery.
- If you have pictures of yourself online, a predator might comment on your appearance. Make sure that only friends can view your photos.
- Consider it a warning sign if someone says something like, “You’re so pretty. I can get you a modeling contract.”
5. Install parental control software.
With SpyHide smartphone monitoring app, parents can quickly review the logs of activities which their children engage in online and determine if any action needs to be taken. By reviewing call logs, text messages, websites visited, instant messenger chats and applications used, parents will be able to see who is contacting their teen and put a stop to any behavior that is deemed inappropriate. GPS tracking is also another important tool for parents to quickly locate their child’s smartphone’s location and make sure they are where they are supposed to be.
6. Look for changes in your child’s behavior.
Maybe you are concerned that your child is being targeted by an online predator. There are several warning signs you can look for. Think about whether your child:
- Is secretive about online activities
- Seems obsessed with being online
- Tries to hide the screen from view when an adult enters the room
- Receives calls or texts from someone you don’t know
7. A lot of time is spent on a smartphone or computer.
Teens love to use the Internet. Nearly one-quarter of all teenagers polled in a recent survey admitted to going online “almost constantly”. The fact that a teenager uses the Internet a lot does not automatically mean that they are being contacted by online predators, but it does increase the odds that the child could be exposed to unscrupulous content or characters. A teen will find the Internet as a way to escape from real-life and engage others in conversations about topics which interest them. Online addiction can be a serious problem in and of itself as children become unable to function in the real world or grow as a person. If what appears to be an online addiction is also tied to inappropriate relationships on the other end, it can lead to dreadful consequences. An online predator will prey on a child’s insecurities and flatter them with validation of their self-worth.
8. Secondary or false email accounts.
Parents should be aware of the online accounts their children create. Parents can follow their children’s various social media accounts to see who is contacting them and view the latest updates to their profiles. Some parents will frequently sign in to their children’s email accounts with their password to check messages or make payments. Children who feel that they need a private life which they need to hide from their parents may be concealing dark secrets, or they may just want to contact a smaller group of friends or have an inbox that doesn’t get as full as others. When finding an alternate email address or duplicate social media account, it is fundamentally important for the parents to determine why the account was made.