While I was using ScreenRetriever to check in on my daughter’s computer activity, I noticed her friend’s Facebook profile. I was shocked to see that this bright, attractive, smart 16 y.o. girl had posted her real first and last name, the town she lives in, her real birthdate, and the school she goes to. A predator’s dream profile! I know her parents have taught her and wouldn’t approve of her posting this much personal information online…that is if they knew. Parents need to trust but verify!
Child “online” predators are arrested frequently by posing as as young teens to lure their victims. According to court documents, from at least December 2012, through his arrest on May 1, 2014, Bridgers used multiple Facebook accounts to pose as a young teenage girl and befriend other girls between the ages of 10 and 16 years old. After befriending the minors, he engaged in online chats with them and used manipulation, coercion, threats, and extortion to compel the minors to send him sexually graphic photographs through Facebook. Bridgers then threatened the minor victims with exposing the sexually graphic photos to their parents, or to other Internet users, in order to extort more sexually graphic photographs and videos from them.
The personal and online conversations with the girls started out innocently and then became more personal. This is called grooming. Grooming is when a sex offender or anybody slowly gains the trust and confidence of their victims. They target both boys and girls of all ages and use the anonymity of the Internet to their advantage since they can be whomever they want. The goal of a predator is to establish a relationship online and then meet offline.
Social networking is the most effective tool ever invented to benefit sexual predators.
Parents need to teach in the strongest way that the internet is not private and that personal information should NOT be posted. Photos showing a child’s interests, such as a picture of a child wearing their school sweatshirt should not be posted because predators use these interests to establish relationship. Make sure your child knows never to meet face to face someone they met online.
Let your kids know that you will be monitoring their online activity to help keep them safe. This friend of my daughters is bright and 16. You would expect that she would have more “online smarts.” Don’t take it for granted that your child knows or that they are following through on what you’ve taught them. You need to check and make sure they are following these commonsense online safety practices! Trust but verify! They are kids and don’t always listen!