If you wouldn’t open your front door to strangers and let them in to play in your child’s room, you need to monitor who they are talking to online.
Posting of adult content, sexting and grooming by strangers is prevalent on social media and online games. Take screenshots of messages, save images or videos and report it immediately to the child protection authority in your jurisdiction!
Use parental control filters to manage and alert you to unwanted interactions on social media and games.
Basically, you can never really be sure who is who in the digital world. The internet is a playground for people who want to commit identity theft and financial fraud, or pursue relationships with someone underage.
To protect kids online from unwanted interation with strangers, parents need to manage and oversee the time that children spend on the internet, avoid apps that make contact with strangers easy, keep computers in common areas and out of bedrooms especially at night, keep accounts private, set limits on where and when the child can use a device and establish good communication so they are comfortable coming to you if a stranger approaches them.
The first step is to block the person from any social media or gaming accounts your child has and then to discuss the serious possible consequences of online stranger danger with your child. However, if you believe your child is being targeted by a predator, you need to consider: contacting child protection or law enforcement services; monitoring the communications and checking devices for sexually-themed communication and/or material; saving any evidence of grooming.
The term “stranger danger” was coined as a warning to children: beware the unknown adult, proceed with caution and be very careful what personal information you reveal. It applies online as much as it does in real life.
Children as young as 3 or 4 may begin to have an awareness of what it means for someone to be a stranger and to understand why they should not trust them. Parents need to start talking to kids about online stranger danger as soon as they start accessing the internet, apps or games.
Online predators do not pick their targets at random. They often prey on children who are friendly and approachable, and are vulnerable and desperate for attention.There is an incubation period during which an online predator grooms the victim, and gains their trust by integrating themselves into the daily life of the child. They try to entice children by offering them incentives and asking them to keep it a secret. This is followed by normalisation of certain inappropriate behaviours. They try to normalise physical contact by gradually introducing children to it and then increasing the frequency and intimacy of contact. Therefore, it is important for parents to make their child understand the difference between safe and unsafe touch.
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