The internet has opened many possibilities even to children. It has widened their horizons as well as exposed them to different ways of life and cultures. However, these children are also exposed to the everyday dangers, as there are people who try to exploit children sexually through the internet and online services. These unscrupulous individuals often seduce children with gifts, kindness, affection, and attention. A lot of energy, money, and time are devoted by these individuals to lure children. Some individuals also engage children in conversations, which are sexually explicit. Pornographic images are often traded and collected while there are those who ask children to meet them face-to-face. Parents must be able to realize that their kids can be victimized indirectly through transfer of sexually explicit material and information as well as through conversation.
Adolescent children often become preys of these cyber offenders because they become curious and interested in materials, which are sexually explicit, as well as about their sexuality. As they establish relationships aside from their family, these children are also moving from their parents’ total control. Sex offenders often target children by exploiting and using these circumstances.
Children who become victims of online sex offenders are often those who spend a lot of time online, usually in chat rooms. These kids spend time online chatting with friends, passing the time, making new friends, and in some cases seeking for sexual explicit materials. They are often at a greater risk in the evenings.
Kids may not be safe spending time online when:
- There are pornographic materials on the kid’s computer. More often than not, online sex offenders use pornography to victimize children. Aside from checking the computer, parents must also check other storage devices like USB for pornographic information.
- Children receive phone calls from people the parents do not know. Cybersex offenders often enjoy having “phone sex” with kids and most of the time they also seek an actual meet up so that they can have real sex. Most of the time, these individuals give out their numbers so that children can call them. Some of these unscrupulous individuals even have a toll free number so that the parents will not find out that their children are calling these sex offenders.
- Children receive packages, gifts, or mails from people whom the parents do not know. This is a common strategy employed by sex offenders so that they can seduce children. Some may even send plane tickets so that the child can visit them.
- Children turn off the computer monitor or change the screen quickly when a family member comes inside the room. They may be spending time in sexually explicit conversations or viewing pornographic images so they turn off the monitor so that the family member will not see them.
- Children become withdrawn. Cybersex offenders will exploit any instance where they can create conflict between the child and her family. The children can also be withdrawn after they have been sexually victimized.
- Children use an online account, which is not theirs. They may meet a cybersex offender when they are online at the library or at a friend’s house.
Parents who suspect that their child may be in communication with a cybersex offender can take the following steps:
- Talk to the child openly about the parent’s suspicions and warn them about the dangers of talking to cybersex criminals.
- Check the contents of the kid’s computer.
- Use a Caller ID to find out who is calling the kid.
- Use a device, which will determine any phone number, which has been dialed from the phone at home.
- Supervise the child when she is accessing any form of electronic communication. The kid’s email must also be monitored.
If the parent has found sufficient evidences that the child may be sexually compromised online, the parent can call the state or local police, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the FBI.