Teens, Tweens and Online Predators
We constantly hear that we need to monitor what our children are doing online. It is true but not as easy as it sounds.
The reason this is so difficult is because our kids are far more knowledgeable about the latest technology and applications than we are. In fact many of these platforms market directly to the tween and teen population. We know to follow them on facebook, Instagram and twitter but what about Whisper, kik, snapchat and askfm? Many of us have never heard of these platforms but I am quite sure your kids have. Beyond monitoring their activity it is important to talk to your children about what is going on with these sites. Help them to understand that any online platform for a teenager is a pedophile playground.
- Explain to your kids the signs. This is the toughest one as there are very few signs. Pedophiles are professionals when it comes to grooming young kids. The number 1 sign is when someone tries to communicate with them that they do not know. It doesn’t matter if they have mutual friends or if he says he goes to their school. It doesn’t matter if he says he saw her at the football game or in gym class. A predator will spend a great deal of time trying to prove to your child that they can trust them. Just like we tell our children never to accept candy or a ride from a stranger we need them to know never to accept a conversation from one either.
- Explain to your tweens and teens what makes them vulnerable to a pedophile. It sounds very sad but the most vulnerable kids are those who are lonely. Sure anyone could be manipulated by a pedophile. But the kids who are posting their problems or comment about being bored and lonely are easy prey. Those who are posting multiple pictures soliciting comments are in a vulnerable place as well and a pedophile will jump at the chance to groom them.
- Explain to your kids that they can talk to you without fear of punishment or judgement. Kids have to know that they can come to you when someone weird sends them a message. They need to be able to trust that the adults in their lives won’t react in fear or anger but in a way that will help them through it.
These are the years that kids begin to detach from their parents, form their own relationships and make important decisions. With the right guidance, open communication and support they will repel anyone that would put them in a vulnerable situation and attract happy, healthy relationships.