A child predator looks just like you and me, which makes it spotting them even that more difficult. Lurking easily in plain sight, a predator can easily exploit children online and then eventually, in real life. A lot of times, parents don’t know what their children are up to on the internet and when they do figure out, it’s too late.
Since young children and teenagers are at a stage in their lives where they’re highly vulnerable and extremely impressionable, it doesn’t take a lot of effort to win their trust. Child predators use various grooming techniques that subtly manipulate the unsuspecting child, with intent of harming them.
- 1 in 5 US teens have received sexual solicitations online
- 77% of children have been targeted by online predators
- And perhaps, most shockingly, only 25% of children told their parents about being approached for online sexual favors.
Here are a few warning signs that your kid is engaging with an online predator.
1. Your Child is Spending an Unusual Amount of Time Online
Teens love spending time on their phones and parents love to lecture them on that; that’s a universal part of growing up. Pew Internet Research Center states that a total of 24% of teens are online “almost constantly.” But if your child is spending an unnatural amount of time online, on their phone, it could mean that there’s something wrong. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re involved with a child predator but the more time they spend online, the more they’re exposed to wrong things.
2. They Quickly Switch Off Their Screen When You Walk In
Growing up, we’ve all kept secrets from our parents; it’s a natural thing. We didn’t tell them everything. But most of the times, these secrets are fairly innocuous. Perhaps you were chatting with a boy you liked from school or something else. But if your teen is being unusually secretive, they could be hiding something serious. A child is more likely to hide inappropriate relationships, such as contact with an online predator.
3. Your Child has Hidden Social Accounts and Emails
Parents should generally keep a check on the social network accounts their kids have online. This way, they can see who they’re contacting, their latest updates etc. But if your teen has a secret account that they did not tell you about, then something’s amiss. If your child is keeping multiple accounts secret from you, then they may be hiding something sinister. It is your job to find out.
4. You Find Sexually Explicit Content on their Computer
Research shows that 20% of teens are exposed to unwanted sexual content online. While watching or saving pornography on their devices may not necessarily be a warning sign, it is still one looking into. If your child has saved specific files featuring one person, or some specific material, then it could be that a predator is prompting them to download it.
5. They’re Receiving Calls, Gifts, and Mail from People You Don’t Know
This is a major indicator that your child is being contacted by a predator. It’s a sign that they are taking the relationship offline. At one point in their online relationship, the predator will often start aggressively grooming the child by calling them for long hours, sending them gifts and such to progress things further.
6. They have Withdrawn From Their Normal Activities
If your teen is starting to isolate themselves and no longer willingly participating in the normal activities they used to do, you could have a bigger problem at hand. This sign usually indicates that things have gotten much worse and the online predator is now full-on exploiting the child for favors. Predators often manipulate the child into doing something unscrupulous and then exploiting them further with the threat of telling their parents about their wrong behavior. This could make the child start to break down emotionally.
Are you afraid your child is being harassed by an online predator? You can try and talk to them but it is likely they won’t come clean. In that case, you should use a trusted parental monitoring app to help you out.