Online sexual predators: What every parent needs to know!

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    Because of Covid-19 many more of our activities have gone online. Here’s how to keep your kids safe from sexual predators on the internet.

    While the internet is portal filled with facts, and opportunities for your child to learn, it can be home to sexual predators.

    The internet is both a wonderful but dangerous place. Especially for children.

    It’s a known fact that sexual predators work and hang out in areas that provide easy access to children: teachers, youth leaders, and the like are not uncommon profiles of sexual predators.

    In today’s world, this concept still holds true. It’s just that this time around, the likes of Instagram, Snapchat, gaming chat rooms, Tik Tok – and whatever tomorrow’s next social media craze will be – are the modern-day playground for tweens and teens and are therefore also a preferred hangout for sexual predators.

    The surge in kids targeted online

    Data from the Digital Law Company (which provides legal advice and guidance in the field of digital media) shows that over the past 12 months during the various lockdowns, there was an increase in predators targeting kids online.

    Boys and girls have been groomed into sending sexually suggestive or naked photos or videos by someone they have met on social media. The predators often appear to be other teens but are actually adults.

    In one example, an Instagram account claiming to be an official Miss Teen South Africa account lured hundreds of young girls with the promise of an international modelling contract and R500,000 up for grabs in prizes.

    As soon as young girls liked the account, they were asked to send a WhatsApp to the number of an international modelling scout for the “international model verification process”.

    All too soon the “verification process” was asking these young girls for photographs of themselves without any clothes on. This was not Miss Teen South Africa or any kind of modelling contest – it was a sexual predator living in South Johannesburg.

    How sexual predators work

    Sexual predators in the digital age are slick and know exactly how to get attention from their victims. A profile will be set up to be something that a victim would be interested in.

    The predator will be sure to follow/ like accounts liked by the victim so that it appears that they have a number of mutual friends. The problem here is that for tweens and teens, the number of followers and likes on social media is seen as one huge popularity contest: the more followers, the better you are.

    Ways to keep your child safe online

    Parents for their part can’t simply ban their children from social media altogether, and should rather focus on educating their children, and raising awareness of the dangers that are online.

    Six tips to keep your kids safe:

    1. Ensure your child has a private account.
    2. Have conversations with your child about:
    3. Stranger danger and not talking to people you do not know in real life
    4. Being discerning about who you allow to follow you on Instagram – explain to your children that being popular on Instagram is like being rich in monopoly!
    5. Blocking anyone who makes you feel even in the slightest bit uncomfortable online
    6. Limit time spent online – there are a number of apps and tools which allow you to limit the time your children spend online or on specific apps.

    Source: Alex News (https://alexnews.co.za/184713/online-sexual-predators-what-every-parent-needs-to-know/)