What is an online predator?
An online predator is as adult Internet user who tries to exploit young Internet users for sexual or other abusive reasons. In general, online predators contact children via messenger programmes (MSN, Gchat etc), online forums, chat rooms or virtual worlds. They can seduce children by using attention, kindness or even gifts, and try to become emotionally attached to the child by listening to and sympathising with their problems. Other predators harass and threat young Internet users, which can cause severe emotional distress, concern and embarrassment.
Many online predators gradually introduce sexual content into their online chats, with the ultimate goal of face-to-face contact. These predators can pretend to be a similar age to the child and communicate with child-friendly language, making it difficult for the child to realise that the person at the other end of the wire is a disturbed adult with ulterior motives.
Where can online predators communicate with children?
In reality, there are no limits to where online predators can contact children online. These individuals can create false accounts on social networking sites and online forums to contact vulnerable children.
How will I know if a predator is contacting my child?
It can be difficult to find out whether an online predator is targeting your child, but there are some ways that you can increase your awareness:
- Check your computer for any pornographic files or text based sexual communication.
- Monitor your child’s activity in live chat rooms or similar applications.
- Be aware of any changes to your child’s behaviour. Many online predators create barriers between the child and a parent, and attempt to become friends with the child by sympathising with family problems.
- Talk to your child about their online activity. Ask them if they have been making any new online friends, or if anyone online has been asking them to meet in ‘real life’.