The online world is a fascinating one, but it can also be dangerous, particularly for underage children. While you should not deprive your child of participating in the wonder that is the Internet, you must educate them properly and monitor their actions due to the dangers posed by online sexual predators and others. Here are some warning signs that may indicate that your child's online safety is at risk or has been compromised.
Your child is online for an inordinate amount of time
There's nothing wrong with your child surfing the net, as long as it does not dominate their free time. If you find that your child is glued to their computer screen and has a hard time removing themselves, it could be a sign that something suspicious is going on. Of course, they could be just conversing with friends their age or navigating their favorite websites, but even those tasks should not consume so much time.
You should pay extra attention if your child is online during evening hours. Why? This is the time when most sexual offenders go to work. Many adults work during the day, so this offers them free time in the evenings. Although it is true that sexual offenders can be online during any time of the day, they are most likely to be on in the evening, for the aforementioned employment reason. Children may also go online late at night because they think their parents may be tired or relaxing, leaving them free to do what they want. For this reason, you should monitor their nighttime online activities with extra care.
Your child quickly closes the computer window they were using or turns off the monitor when you walk in the room
Unless your child is doing something they shouldn't be doing, they have no real reason to hide their actions. Quickly turning off the monitor or minimizing a window they were using are signs that they could be doing something bad or unacceptable.
Your child has various online accounts that you do not recognize
Online sex offenders will often provide their underage targets with new online accounts that they can use for communication. They do this as a way to hide conversations from the targets' parents. Monitor your child's computer and request passwords to all of their accounts to keep tabs on their activity.
You discover pornography on their computer
Discovering pornography on your child's computer is one of the most tell-tale signs that they are at risk. They could have found the material on their own, or, even worse, received it from a predator. Many predators tend to send explicit material to children during online correspondence. Even if you do not find any material on the computer, you should perform a search of files, photos, and videos, as they may be hidden on the computer.
Your child receives mail or makes/receives phone calls from people you do not know
Receiving suspicious mail is another warning sign. Predators are known to send gifts, photos, plane tickets, or other objects to children via standard mail, despite the fact that it is not as easy to hide. Phone calls are another method of contact. After conversing with children online, many predators will want to progress the relationship over the phone. They could either ask the child for their phone number or tell them to call. Either way, the predator has an avenue to gaining access to the child's phone number. Check your phone bill and caller ID for any suspicious phone numbers you do not recognize; the calls may take place when you are not home or are asleep.
These are just some of the signs that suggest your child may be at risk online. To ensure their online safety, be sure to educate them on the possible dangers they may encounter on the Internet. Communicate with them frequently about their online whereabouts, install parental controls on their computer, and be knowledgeable about any online accounts or profiles they may have.
For much more on this topic, visit http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/parent-guide/parent-guide
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