In our modern age, the internet has granted us wonders of technology and communication that couldn’t even be imagined even a few decades ago. But despite its many boons, it has also spawned an insidious new method of sexual predation never before seen. Pedophiles use chat rooms and other social networking sites to prey on young children. Some studies have indicated that one in every five children is contacted by just such a predator between their tenth and seventeenth birthday.
The most obvious danger of such predation is that the child may come to feel deep friendship with these people who often lie about their own age or intentions. This can lead to an unintentional tryst of child and predator in the worst circumstances. Clearly, our children have not had the life experience to accurately determine these people’s motives, or to know that it isn’t safe to meet with such people under any circumstances.
Nevertheless, the more real, but less discussed, danger is that the internet provides such predators an open and anonymous forum for tips on how to prey on children. They can learn how to coax the child into friendship and trust as well as learn how to avoid detection by law enforcement. They can learn about legal loopholes, spread child pornography, and regale each other with stories of conquest, whether real or imagined.
It’s ultimately the parent’s job to monitor their children’s online activity and keep them away from such predators in the first place. Unfortunately, in our ever busier world, it grows harder to filter what our children our exposed to every day. And the worst part is that these pedophiles have a forum with which to learn how to surpass even the best defenses a parent may make. The best thing you can do is be open with your child and tell them, in an age appropriate manner, what these people are and what they intend to do. Encourage them to only communicate with people they actually know and to report to you if any unknown person is attempting to contact them. In some cases it may even be necessary to prevent the child from accessing such sites all together if continued attempts are made to contact the child. Use your best judgment and encourage your children to do the same. Stay informed, just as the predators are constantly honing their skills and learning new ones so must you. Check the internet often to find the latest information on sexual predation and how to avoid it.