The internet is an extension of the physical world. Unfortunately, the risks of the analog world reach deep into the web. Hackers, thieves, stalkers, and sexual predators are all on the internet and they are each looking for their next victim.

Many criminals lurk on social media just waiting for an innocent person to get trapped in their web, but those traps aren’t set just for adults. Criminals target naïve and innocent populations to commit their crimes, including children of all ages. That is why it is crucial to discuss internet safety with your kids, even at an early age.

Altmann, Gerd. ‘Hacker.’ Pixabay.com. Copyright-free.

Protecting children from the dark side of the web is a multi-layered job. Employing parental control software is an easy way to block inappropriate websites and content, but there isn’t any software that can prepare kids for identifying predators and quickly blocking and reporting them.

Understanding Grooming

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) advises parents to familiarize themselves with what online child predator behavior looks like.

Predators will want explicit photos of the kids and may send child pornography of their own. The predator will coax the child into inappropriate role-playing with sexual overtones, and eventually ask to meet the child to assault them. The predator may offer financial compensation or pretend to be a model or talent scout.

Stages of Grooming

1. The predator obtains the kid’s trust through flattery, empty promises, and engaging with them on social media. This step of the grooming process can take hours or months. 

2. The predator begins to investigate how involved the parents are and what their schedules include. If there’s little parental involvement in the child’s online life, then the abuser may escalate the process.

3. The pedophile will then start sending inappropriate and sexual photos and videos. The predator may frame it as a game or as an art project.

4. The goal of the predator is to obtain sexually explicit photos, meet the child in person where the abuse turns from emotional to physical and sexual predation.

Parental Control Software

Parental controls restrict access to inappropriate content for kids and there are many antivirus software products with parent controls built in. That way, you have two walls of defense with reliable software.

According to the SafetyDetectives, three antivirus products include exceptional child-safety features.

  • Bitdefender – the premium version comes with a webcam filter, activity logs, history and warnings, social media and cell phone monitoring, and SMS tracking.
  • Norton – this software tracks time, web use, searches, social media activity, and locations. Norton provides supervision and the protection of sensitive data information.
  • Avast – Parents can block specific websites, keywords, and social media.

Quality parental control software is an excellent starting place for protecting your children from the criminal elements found throughout the digital world. However, software cannot replace a solid conversation with your kids and keen observation.

Talk to Your Kids About Internet Safety

As the digital world evolves, so does the nefarious elements that seek to exploit innocent people, including children. 

There are a few necessary topics that you should discuss with your kids before allowing them on the web.

  • Do not share personal information online which includes email addresses, personal photos, phone numbers, or links to other social media accounts.
  • Remember that whatever you post on the web will be there forever. Keep in mind that you don’t want to post inappropriate content that your teachers, family, or future employers might see. 
  • Be kind. Bullying on the web has real-life consequences and, in some cases, legal troubles.
  • Go through social media privacy settings with your kids and remind them to never share their login details.
  • Never meet someone you’ve met online without your parent’s knowledge.