How to Talk to Your Kids About Online Predators

Nov 14, 2016

Online predators aren’t something we want to talk to our kids about. We want to believe that our kids wouldn’t be lured by one; that if they were approached, they would tell us and we would protect them!

According to a recent statistic, one in five U.S. teenagers who regularly log on to the internet says they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation via the web. Solicitations were defined as requests to engage in sexual activities or sexual talk, or to give out personal sexual information. Only 25% of those told a parent.

Given this startling reality, we need to educate our children on the risk and provide them with the necessary tools and strategies to successfully manage any communications they may receive. Clients of mine who have found themselves inadvertently talking with online predators’ report feeling scared, hurt and confused. They trusted this person they were talking with and felt they were building a friendship.

Here are some important tips to consider as you prepare your child for this very real threat:

  • Start the conversation - don’t hesitate to talk with your child about online predators. In an age appropriate manner, explain to them what they are, what their motives are and reinforce they are not to be trusted.
  • Educate about grooming tactics - make sure your child understands the “red flags” of grooming. Talk through examples with them on what things they may hear in an online chat. Some of these things may include: “Let’s chat privately”, “I’d love to meet you. Where do you live?”, “Where do you hang out”, “What do you like to do with your friends?”. These are all tactics to gain a young person’s trust and create a vulnerable situation where they may become a victim.
  • Minimize shame - above all else, it is vitally important that your child trusts you and feels they can turn to you if they feel unsafe or question an online interaction. While explaining the risks, be sure to also reinforce you are there to help them navigate this online world!
  • Monitor online activity - keep the family computer in a neutral space in the house where everyone can see online behavior. Set screen time limits on the amount of time your child spends on line or in apps. Use a parental control software to receive alerts about inappropriate activity on content. Create restrictions for participation in online chat rooms.

The psychological effects of online exploitation can be extremely detrimental to our children. It can cause increased anxiety, depressed mood, isolation, school truancy and more. The good news is with proper guidelines in place, education and strong connection and emotional support, we can combat this risk and keep out children safe.