ONLINE STRANGER DANGER: STOP INTERNET STALKERS
The possibility of their kids running into predators online is the biggest fear for most parents. These predators and cybercriminals are out to do others harm, take advantage of kids and steal their information. Many of the criminals who are caught say they target kids because they think that it's easier to fool them and they know where to find kids.
Knowing where predators troll, what they look for and the tactics they use to lure kids in will help you keep an eye on your kids when they're online.
Where Strangers Are Most Likely to Troll Online
For online predators it's all about gathering information on victims and initiating contact in a way that seems as natural as possible.
Social Media Sites
These sites are now the most popular spot for predators because kids are sharing information about themselves and interested in connecting with people.
Apps like Kik that allow people to send messages to each other are a hotbed for predators and cybercriminals. These apps make it more difficult to monitor communication, which is why they are favored by unsavory characters.
Predators will read conversations that other chat room members are having and will jump in when the time is right. Nationally there are 4,500 cases a year where predators are caught on chat rooms.
If a predator can get a kid's email address this is a popular way for them to reach out and appear as if they are someone familiar.
In-gaming voice chatting and messaging make it easy for predators to contact kids when their guard is down.
What Online Predators Are Looking For
The awful truth is that anyone online, no matter what their age, could fall victim to an cyber crook or predator. It is an inherent risk of the Internet. That said, below are the things that convicted criminals have said they target when searching for victims.
Kids With Problems
An ABC News report on Internet predators discussed that predators often target kids that write about problems they are having online. They will look for kids who are vulnerable and use that as a means for making a connection. If your child is showing signs of being sad, rebellious or lonely they are more likely to be a target.
Kids That Share a Lot of Information
In order for cybercriminals and predators to victimize kids they need information. The kids that make their social media accounts public, post a lot, share personal pictures and communicate online frequently are more likely to get into trouble.
Kids With Webcams
Webcams give predators one more way to contact kids, take photographs of them and gather more information.
Tactics Used by Online Predators
Fake Online Personas Fake Out Kids
Police departments across the country are catching more and more predators and cybercriminals that are creating fake social media accounts. They make up a persona saying they are a kid or teen in order to gain the trust of others and fit in with the crowd. One of the latest incidents happened in Monroe County in Pennsylvania. Detectives caught a man posing as a 15 year old on the social media site MeetMe.com after the site administrators flagged him.
They Gather Friends From a Singular Place
On social media accounts criminals and predators will send friend requests and contact a number of kids from a single city or school. The idea is that if another person your kid knows has friended the creeper your kid will too.
They Act Like an Understanding Confidant
The goal of the predator is to gain a kid's trust by agreeing with their gripes and opinions so that they appear to be "on their side". They work to make the kid feel special and smart so that the kid continues to confide in them.
They Take Their Time to Build Online Relationships That Go Offline
The predator or cybercriminal will initiate contact online. The conversations will continue for a short while. Then they'll suggest that the kid interact with them on another site or app that's less secure. From there they will ultimately ask for more personal information or even ask the kid to meet in person.
How to Protect Your Kids Online
Talk to Your Kids About Safety - For young kids in particular it can be difficult for them to really comprehend that people aren't always what they say they are. Make it clear that you are there to help them, and if they are victimized by someone online they should let you know immediately.
Monitor Your Kid's Internet Use - Despite talking about online dangers kids may still venture where they shouldn't and interact with others in the wrong way. Use security software and good old-fashioned poking around to monitor your kid's Internet use on computers and Internet-connected devices. FBI Agent Gregory Christopher suggests that parents look at all apps on a phone in addition to calls and text messages.
Set Passwords for Your Kids - One way to ensure you are able to monitor your kid's activities is to set the password for them. Make it a requirement when allowing them to use the Internet and set up accounts online.
Prohibit Some Social Media Accounts, Websites, Games and Apps - Any app like SnapChat that "self-destructs" content so that you can't see what has been posted should definitely be off limits. Also look for age recommendations and ratings to decide if an app, game or account is appropriate for your kids. Anything you deem to be off-limits should be blocked using layers of parental controls.
Instruct Your Kid to Block Anyone Who Seems Questionable - The best way for kids to avoid problems is to simply ignore cybercriminals, predators and anyone else who seems sketchy. Tell your kids to just block the individual instead of replying.
"1 IN 20 CHILDREN– HAS ARRANGED A SECRET MEETING WITH SOMEONE THEY MET ONLINE."
- NETMUMS SURVEY OF 825 KIDS
Teaching kids Internet safety is as important as teaching them to look both ways before crossing the street. Don't wait until their safety, your financial security or a family member's identity is compromised. Take action against cyber criminals that use the Internet to gain access into our lives and the lives of our children.