The 3 Important Concerns Parents Have About Online Grooming Addressed
For every bright side of a particular innovation, there’s always a dark side. The internet may be a vast source of almost anything; it can also be a dangerous place for our children. According to Michael Nuccitelli, PsyD, “With the advent of the Internet, a new environment now exists for the cyberstalkers and online predator.” In it, people can assume fake names, put in pictures in their profiles that are not theirs and adopt counterfeit personalities all to victimize someone, most likely children. Assuming a false identity online with the intent of sexually abusing a minor is commonly known as online grooming.
With the rising number of reported incidences of this crime, parents’ worries about their kids and their online activities are also increasing. In this premise, this article addresses the three important concerns every parent has about it and how it affects their kids.
- There’s always news about some sex predator grooming someone’s unknowing kid online, and I am worried about my brood. According to Dr. Karen Ruskin, PsyD, LMFT, “Grooming is the process the molester undertakes to gain a child’s trust and sometimes the parents trust as well.”
- Reports of unwanted sexual solicitations via the internet have declined by 53% over the years (2000-2010 statistics). In 2010, reports said that only 9% of the kids going online received solicitations from purported sexual predators.
- Reports about online predators tend to be picked up by more than one news portal online making it appear that it is still rampant. Portals also have the habit of sensationalizing the news significantly to play on parents’ fears.
- Thirdly, experts say that kids are more likely to give in to peers pressuring them to share an unbecoming picture online than they would unwanted sexual solicitations from someone in the net.
- On the other hand, though, a recent report reveals that online grooming in some areas like England’s Greater Manchester has increased four times over the past years.
The encouraging stats on online grooming and the seeming contradiction about research results on the matter just shows that we, parents, shouldn’t take on a laidback attitude towards our kids’ online presence. However, more than just instilling fear in them about online groomers, we should arm them with information, telling them who to avoid and to call for help from a safe adult when their online friends start asking them personal or sexual questions.
- I cannot keep up with my kids when it comes to internet use. I do not know what social media platforms they are on or other sites and apps they frequent.
The facts are:
- According to a journal on public policy, online grooming mostly happens in social media chat rooms as well as in chat features of multiplayer games like Mine craft, Roblox, Clash of Clans and the like.
- Most of the games designed with kids in mind have safety features to prevent your kids from getting inappropriate advances from possible online sexual predators. However, the others that are for a broader range of users and not just for kids have fewer to no safeguard settings.
- Your kids encountering and talking to strangers are possible in apps and sites that allow interactions between users without age verifications or moderations put into place. According to Rachel Busman, PsyD, “In terms of internet safety, a no-talking-to-strangers rule is important.”
You, as a parent, must also be aware of these:
- Some of those who are under 18 put up their social media accounts despite the need for age verification by faking the numbers. Worse, some parents are guilty of exposing their children to online grooming by making them social media accounts even if they are still underage.
- Teens, at times, visit adult sites and engage in adult conversations out of their curiosity over sex.
- Some young people also make themselves vulnerable to online predators by posting overly sexual and inappropriate images of themselves.
It is best if you put your computer somewhere public in your house like the living room. You can also set guidelines and limitations for your kids to follow with regards to internet use. As for their online presence, you directly ask your kids what social media platforms they frequent. It helps if you have your account, too, so you can follow or friend them.
- What if someone is already grooming my kid online? How will I know the signs?
- Kids who post inappropriate or overly sexy images of themselves, those who open up about being sexual abuse victims online and those who are curious about sex are the prime targets of sexual predators.
- Secondary factors to consider are these: girls with ages ranging from 12 to 15 and boys who are going through identity crises and feel safer to talk about their conflicting feelings to online friends.
- There are also times when teens tend dare or push each other to follow up on strangers contacting them online likening it to a game.
Red flags to look for:
- Your kid asks for more internet time.
- He becomes secretive with his online dealings like minimizing, closing or switching windows when you are around.
- He starts to receive phone calls from an unknown someone.
- He also has things, especially gadgets, clothes or money, you did not give him, yet he could not say where or from whom they came from.
If you suspect your child is being groomed, ask him about it without being judgmental or angry. Gather as much information as you can about the alleged predator from your child then go to the proper authorities. It may look like it is just a one-time deal. You might not want to make a big issue about it, too. However, reporting the matter to the police ensures not only your child’s safety but of other potential victims as well.