Chat rooms, email, and instant messaging put children and teens at risk of running into online sexual predators. In the online world, kids develop a sense of anonymity, which leads them to develop trust and confidence quickly with other online members. Sexual predators prey upon these children by developing online relationships designed to lead to inappropriate discussions and meetings. According to many of the online “watch organizations,” online predators are real and must be addressed:
- One in five children who use computer chat rooms have been approached over the Internet by a pedophile. (i-Safe Inc)
- One in seven kids who use the Internet have been solicited for sex online. (Crime Against Children Research Center)
- Law enforcement officials estimate that as many as 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given moment. (Dateline, January 2006)
- Help Delete Online Predators
Learn how to protect children’s online lives and help delete online predators by learning how to report incidents to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
- Polly Klaas Foundation “Internet Safety Kit”
Access to a free, online “Internet Safety Kit,” which contains guidance for parents on ways to keep your children safer online and help facilitate communication about the Internet with your children.
- Enough is Enough is an organization focused on protecting children from online predators
- If you suspect children exploited online contact the FBI
Tips for Avoiding Online Predators
- Keep Internet-connected computers in an open area. Establish Internet usage rules and monitor your family’s online activities.
- Choose gender-neutral screen names that do not reveal personal information.
- Never reveal personal information (including age and gender) and do not complete online personal profiles.
- Do not leave a chat room’s public area and enter a private chat room with a stranger.
- Do not respond to instant messages or emails from strangers.
- Never download images from an unknown source or strangers…such images could be sexually explicit.
- If your child has a profile on a social community web site (such as MySpace), review their list of online friends and make sure you know each person.
- Report contact from an online predator to local law enforcement or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children or by phone at 1-800-843-5678