Statistics show that 95% of teens (ages 12-17) are users of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Tumbler, Google+, and Pinterest. In addition they text, instant message, email, and often frequent chat rooms.
Internet communication has become a major part of their daily lives. Most of the time, these tools are valuable, harmless and used to communicate with people that kids know in the “real world”.
Occasionally, however, there might be times when kids use these tools to meet new friends. Over half of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 communicate daily with someone that they do not know in the “real world”. Because anonymity is a key component in this type of communication, it puts them at risk. The person on the other side of that conversation can be posing as someone other than who they say they are. This false identity can hide the true identity of an online predator.
These online hunters seek out young people through social media. They troll social networking and online gaming sites. They look for kids who are emotionally vulnerable and impressionable. They form relationships, build trust, and develop intimacy with these kids. Then they seduce them through affection, kindness, flattery, and/or gifts. Gradually, they may introduce sexual content.
One in five teens report unwanted sexual solicitation via online predators. And yet, one third of all teenagers who communicate with these online strangers arrange to meet that person offline.
Every year, millions of children fall prey to online sexual predators. In 100% of those cases, teens that are the victims of sexual predators have gone willingly to meet with them.
What can you do?
- Teach your children how to use the Internet safely. Talk to them about the sites that they can use, the ones that you want them to stay away from, and why. Bookmark the ones that you want them to use and put them in a folder with their name on it for easy access.
- Talk to them about social networking sites. Again, the ones that they can and cannot use and why. Ask them to report to you immediately if they are contacted by someone that they do not know, or someone who says anything inappropriate to them via post, text, or message.
- Teach them about privacy and protecting their identity and the identities and activities of other family members. Tell them to never give out personal information, such as name, address, phone number, school, etc.
- Tell them to not upload their own or any family photos or videos.
- Tell them to never download photos, videos, or links form people that they do not know.
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