6 Signs Your Child Has Been Contacted By A Child Predator
Child predators seek vulnerable youngsters to engage in manipulative and domineering sexual relationships. The fact that there are people out there who would seek to prey upon juveniles is terrifying for parents. Smartphones make a predator’s efforts easier as they provide a direct line of communication to teens who are regularly connected to the Internet.
It can be difficult sometimes to spot the signs that a child has been contacted by or is actively engaging in an online relationship with a predator. Teens can go through several phases in a short time and odd behavior can seem normal while many signs that a teen is headed in the wrong direction can be symptoms of completely different issues entirely.
Predators lure children online in many different ways. They will browse through online dating sites for their prey, or they may create fake accounts on social media sites and pose as their victim’s peers. Discussion boards and chat rooms with adolescent themes are scoured to find impressionable minds to pique their interest. A predator’s goal is to earn trust and admiration so that they can meet in real life to the detriment of entire families.
Here are 6 red flags that a teen is being enticed online by a child predator.
1. Quickly closing a screen on the phone or ending a conversation as soon as parents enter a room.
When a child is doing something which they know they should not be doing, they will react as startled and begin to quickly make changes to whichever computer screen, tablet or smartphone they are using whenever their parents are within sight. Teens try to hide all sorts of browsing activity with computers and phones for many different reasons. Sometimes the reasons can be benign such as if they are embarrassed about liking a certain cartoon or maybe are planning a surprise. But far too often, a secret could be a big deal for a number of bad reasons. A teen that constantly has something to hide is likely having inappropriate relationships which they know their parents will not approve of.
2. A lot of time is spent on a smartphone or computer.
Teens love to use the Internet. Nearly one-quarter of all teenagers polled in a recent survey admitted to going online almost constantly. The fact that a teenager uses the Internet a lot does not automatically mean that they are being contacted by a child predator, but it does increase the odds that the child could be exposed to unscrupulous content or characters. A teen will find the Internet as a way to escape from real-life and engage others in conversations about topics which interest them. Online addiction can be a serious problem in and of itself as children become unable to function in the real world or grow as a person. If what appears to be an online addiction is also tied to inappropriate relationships on the other end, it can lead to dreadful consequences. An online predator will prey on a child’s insecurities and flatter them with validation of their self-worth.
3. Losing interest in aspirations.
The Internet has changed the way many people live their lives. Social groups gather online to discuss hobbies, politics and business from anywhere in the world. The global network of online activity can save time on traveling to meet up and can expand the exchange of ideas between people thousands of miles apart. For some, using the Internet has led to a dramatic shift in focus away from things they once cared about and being concerned only with what happens online. Some may be addicted to online games, others may become fixated on various forms of online entertainment in ways that dramatically affect their health and social life. Predators will try to emulate their victim’s ideas of a healthy relationship and entice a youngster with vast amounts of flattery.
4. Erotic images or videos.
It is estimated that 80-90% of teens have been inadvertently exposed to pornography at some point. A number of those teens may become habitual viewers of pornography and some may find themselves addicted. Saving images and videos to a computer or phone indicates a deliberate attempt to keep a file accessible in the event that the content is removed from its online source. When there are multiple graphics or videos of the same person, there is a possibility that the teen received the media directly from the person in them. Minors should not be viewing pornography anyways, but predators will eventually send nude photos to entice their victims.
5. Secondary or false email accounts.
Parents should be aware of the online accounts their children create. Parents can follow their children’s various social media accounts to see who is contacting them and view the latest updates to their profiles. Some parents will frequently sign in to their children’s email accounts with their password to check messages or make payments. Children who feel that they need a private life which they need to hide from their parents may be concealing dark secrets, or they may just want to contact a smaller group of friends or have an inbox that doesn’t get as full as others. When finding an alternate email address or duplicate social media account, it is fundamentally important for the parents to determine why the account was made.
6. Gifts and phone calls from unknown sources.
It is important for parents to know who their children are talking to and who has sent flowers, cards or other gifts to their children. Teens can be somewhat shy or embarrassed about revealing a new love interest, but it is important for their safety that parents can identify a name with a face and recognize the types of emotions their child has towards an individual. Online predators will shower teens with affection and gifts to solicit favor in the sight of their prey. They will often try to drive a wedge between a child and their parents to instill a desire to meet in-person with someone who is actually the villain.
With smartphone monitoring and computer monitoring software, parents can quickly review the logs of activities which their children engage in online and determine if any action needs to be taken. By reviewing call logs, text messages, websites visited, instant messenger chats and applications used, parents will be able to see who is contacting their teen and put a stop to any behavior that is deemed inappropriate. GPS tracking is also another important tool for parents to quickly locate their child’s smartphone’s location and make sure they are where they are supposed to be.