Cyber-predators are a topic I loathe discussing. The research I have done on predators has made me lose sleep and eventually when researching, I stumble across cases I wish I could forget. But the research is worth it, helping parents and kids understand how predators work, and how to spot red flags is one of the primary reasons this blog started.
What is a Cyber Predator?
Technically speaking, a cyber-predator is someone who uses digital media to establish and manipulate a relationship with his victim. Most commonly, this is sexual in nature, but can also involve manipulation for money or other things. Lately, some predators just have victims send compromising pictures and videos.
The Process of Grooming-
Cyber Predators are well versed in establishing a relationship with their victims and have no qualms about taking months to "groom" their victims. Grooming- is the process by which a predator slowly gets his victim to drop his/her guard. This is done by first appearing like the one who "understands" the victim. Many teens feel that no one understands them, a predator turns this his advantage. Predators become the victim's best friend and the relationship becomes nearly addictive. Predators will slowly begin to exploit a child's natural curiosity about sex and begin to introduce topics and media that is sexual in nature.
From my research I have found predators exploit victims in two distinct ways:
Direct abuse- Where the predator grooms the victim and convinces him/her to meet in a public or private place.
Indirect abuse-Where the predator grooms the victim and convinces them to send revealing pictures and videos of themselves.
Neither of these two types of abuse are exclusive, for example. A common tactic for a predator has been to convince a victim to send nude pictures and video of themselves. Later, the predator uses this leverage to force a meeting with the victim and blackmail them into sexual acts.
One such predator is Nicolas Stone, who convinced 55 girls between the ages of 12-17 to get undressed in front of their webcam. These pictures and videos were later used to create pornographic material and was published to the Web. Nicolas also convinced a number of the girls to meet him in person and engage in sex acts. At the time of sentencing Nicolas was 35 years old, he has three children. No one suspected him of this behavior.
What can you do?
1. Get protective software that logs every key-stroke, conversation and media that is exchanged on your computer. God forbid your child is disappears, this software could help you located them. There is similar software available for cell-phones as well.
2. Keep all web-enabled devices OUT of the teens rooms and in a public area of the house. You can disable a wifi card and make it that the laptop needs a cable to access the internet. At bedtime, collect phones.
3. Watch all deliveries, predators will send pre-paid cell phones, plane tickets and bus tickets. This way they have not taken a minor across state lines.
4. Have your child's password for every social media account they have. If you are not sure what accounts they have- check the history on your Internet Browser and see where your child goes online. "Friending" your child does not work!
5. Check http://www.familywatchdog.us/ to stay apprised of any predators in your immediate area. Bearing in mind that most predators do travel quite a bit to meet victims
Questions? Come over to www.transparentlyteaching.com and start a conversation.