Children are learning how to use computers and the Internet at a young age. Pedophiles are taking advantage of this by using the Internet as their main tool to try and find their prey.
Schools across the country should implement mandatory Internet safety courses to educate children about the dangers of online predators just as young children are taught not to talk to strangers.
Online predators target boys and girls of all ages by visiting chat rooms and befriending young, openly vulnerable children to gain their trust. They play on the child’s naivety by agreeing with the child’s complaints, saying their teacher or parents are being too strict and saying it is not fair.
Predators also look for young children who readily give out their personal information like addresses, phone numbers or school names. 75 percent of children are more willing to share personal information online about themselves and their families in exchange for goods and services, according to sentrypc.com.
Chat rooms are not the only sites where predators frequent; searching through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Myspace. They use these sites so they can easily recognize the children they are pursuing from their profile pictures or geo-tags.
Screen names with dates of birth indicating young ages are another dangerous element that predators target. Predators will seek out their preferred age groups and gain the trust of their victims. Once trust is established, the predators will begin sexualizing conversations and even send their targets pornographic pictures.
If the victim gets scared and tries to cut off contact from the predator, the predator may threaten to tell the victims’ parents about their questionable online activity.
These and other methods are just some of the ways that online predators manipulate children, preying upon their fears and emotions.
According to the official forum perverted-justice.com, in 2007 there were 10,746 known sex offenders deleted from Myspace. In 2008, there were 2,800 known sex offenders deleted from Facebook.
Some cities around the United States already offer courses for parents to become more informed about online safety. The states should require these classes to be mandatory for young students and should be open for parents to attend as well.
The courses would act as an information outlet for young children to be exposed to at an early age so they would be aware of signs of an online predator, such as basic grooming techniques, which can include:
• chat rooms (based on interest)
• looking for child oriented screen names
• searching social networking profiles
• striking up a conversation
• showing interest and gaining their trust
• building them up (be their friend)
Not only would the classes inform children, but they would also teach children about what to do in case they are approached by an online predator and help them escape the feeling of entrapment from going onto the site in the first place.
The FBI already has a guide to Internet safety that these courses could use to instruct students:
• never arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they met on-line;
• never upload (post) pictures of themselves onto the Internet or on-line service to people they do not personally know;
• never give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number;
• never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance there could be sexually explicit images;
• never respond to messages or bulletin board postings that are suggestive, obscene, belligerent, or harassing;
• that whatever they are told on-line may or may not be true.
Unfortunately, one in five United States teenagers who regularly log onto the internet say they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the Web, according to sentrypc.com. It is the responsibility of the government to take as many preventative steps as it takes to keep our future generation as safe as possible from online predators.