Internet predators seek out others online to harm them. Most Internet predators do what is called “grooming.” Many Internet predators are adults who have experience building the trust they need in their victims. They are very manipulative and can appear as extremely sincere, providing information and pictures that seem legitimate but are often false and portray a completely different person.
- Grooming begins when a predator finds a target online, usually by accessing personal information gathered from a variety of searches. They find out as much as they can, eventually developing a “profile” of their targets.
- Predators typically make contact with their targets by initiating online conversations in chat rooms or social networking sites. They usually try to appear as though they have things in common with their target.
- Over time, the communication moves from public sites to more private conversations, like instant messaging (IM) and email.
- Sexually explicit photos are often introduced to desensitize the person being groomed, thus allowing the target to become gradually comfortable with the images over time.
- The predator gains the victim’s trust and friendship, while pulling the victim away from family and friends.
- The most dangerous predators aim to meet their victims in person.
[blockquote]If you feel your child is in danger, do not ignore it. Contact local law enforcement and the CyberTipline online or at 1-800-843-5678 immediately.[/blockquote]
- If you feel your child is in danger, do not ignore it.
- Contact local law enforcement immediately. Information that could help law enforcement is often time-sensitive and, the sooner you call, the sooner they can investigate the problem.
- In addition, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline online or at 1-800-843-5678.
- Save all of the email, text messages, documents, chat logs or whatever else you have that may be helpful in an investigation.
It is important to let your child know that he or she is not in trouble. Open communication is extremely critical in this situation. Responding with punishment may discourage the child from reporting important details about the circumstances. Often, even making the computer off limits may be viewed as a form of punishment, in turn breaking down communication. If possible, work with the child whenever he or she is online, and notify a school counselor of the situation.