The Internet, like other forms of media, is not necessarily intrinsically evil, but it depends on how and what its used for. Before the advent of the Internet, children basically went to the library and researched encyclopedias and now many children use the Internet to research for school assignments as well as for social networking and on-line chatting.
One way the Internet poses dangers to children is when they uncautiously use social media such as Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter. Also, while children (and adults alike) enjoy the instantaneous nature of connecting with people via instant messaging, it also poses dangers and threats to children’s safety and well-being. Also, when children are typing in key words for assignments, they will inevitably stumble upon unsavory chat-rooms.
Ephesians 5:11 states “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” and that should be the responsibility of every caring parent: to open up communication and dialogue with your children about the important topic of their online life and expose the tactics of online predators.
“A picture is worth a thousand words” the old adage states, conveying the idea that one’s picture tells their life-story. Well, sort of. These days anybody – as we all know – can upload any photo as their profile picture and fill out their profile to portray anybody at any age they’d like. Many child molesters and predators are using Facebook to prowl for innocent children who will befriend them because their profile and picture indicate that they are a cute, young boy or girl.
There are thousands of cases ripped from the headlines that a child or teenager meets someone on a social networking site who they think is their age in a clandestine manner and are raped, molested or worse yet, killed. Also, on these social networking websites, they may be giving away too much private information about not only themselves, but you and your family. Private photos and information that you would only share with your most trusted companions and family are, perhaps, out in the open for the world – and predators – to see.
The show “To Catch A Predator” (sting operation conducted by Dateline NBC which has volunteers disguise themselves as children online – usually young, teenage girls and sometimes boys – to expose child predators) illustrates the methods and mentality of online predators.
” In a survey conducted by The Intelligence Group, Dateline questioned 500 teenagers across the country, ages 14 to 18, about their computer habits. When asked if they chat online to people they’ve never met before, an overwhelming majority said “yes,” whether it’s “all the time,” “sometimes,”or “not very often.” When asked if someone they’ve met online has wanted to meet them in person, 58 percent said “yes.” And 29 percent said they’ve had a “scary” experience online.” (“Many Teens Say They’ve Met Someone Online”, 2006, para. 3-6)
Many children and teenagers have Yahoo accounts which also have the option of Yahoo instant messaging. Yahoo, of course, is among dozens of email providers that provide instant messaging (including Facebook). While many children connect with family and friends through instant messaging, many online predators also use instant messaging to target children.
Many times, people, including children will put their instant messenger address on their Facebook for public viewing. This is easy ground for predators to copy and paste their instant messaging address and message the child, pretending to be a friend of theirs or someone that is around their age that likes the same hobbies, games, sports, goes to the same school, etc. If a child trusts someone and has developed an online rapport with an instant messenger “friend” that you are unaware of, this should raise red flags.
When someone types a fairly neutral word into the Google search engine – as you know – if there isn’t a filter on the search, many questionable and unsavory websites pop up that have nothing to do with the key words that the child originally typed in. Pornographic websites and “adult” chatrooms will pop up. This of course, leads children unwittingly to the lion’s den of child predators.
“Chat rooms and instant private messages are two main tools pedophiles use to contact children on-line” (Shocking Facts About Child Abuse, Scary Facts Sheet, para. 5).
“There are 40,000 chatrooms where children can meet child predators” (Shocking Facts About Child Abuse, Scary Facts Sheet, para. 2).
“There is 100% chance of a child meeting a predator in a chatroom” (Shocking Facts About Child Abuse, Scary Facts Sheet, para. 6, FBI, 2002).
How do we keep children safe? This particular website: http://www.noslang.com/parents.php states that, as a parent, you should block “porn sites, set up filters, and even have a monitoring program to let you know if your kids are talking about sex, or porn, or meeting up with “Uncle Bob” from the chat room” (“Keeping Your Kids Safe Online, para. 1).
Also, this website discusses youth “slang” or code language that kids use to hide/disguise/conceal information from parents. This website http://www.noslang.com/ # offers a free internet slang decoder/translating service. You just copy and paste questionable content that your teen is im’ing (“instant messaging” for short) and there is a translation so you can monitor your kid’s activities!
It’s best that you – as a parent – add your children as a friend onto their Facebook account as well as instant messaging services. Tell them that either they can allow you to have full viewing privileges of their profile, their “wall”, and their friends or they can use the internet without participating in social networking sites. Inductive questions like “What are some things you can do to keep yourself safe?” and “Let’s just say you know for a fact someone is stalking you. What would you do differently on the Web? Would you remove anything from your blog?” are a doorway to effective communication (Sullivan, 2006, questions 3 and 5).
This would help them to consider (without feeling threatened or punished) the consequences of their online actions in light of their personal safety. The inductive questions and discussions are meant to help your child realize that you are a concerned, loving, yet authoritative parent who only seeks to support them with safe online habits.
Bible, The (NIV). (2002). Zondervan NIV Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
Internet Slang Dictionary and Translator. (n.d.). No Slang . Retrieved March 9, 2012, from http://www.noslang.com/#
Most Teens Say They’ve Met Strangers Online: New Nationwide Survey Reveals Teens Interact With Strangers On The Web. (2006, April 27). Dateline NBC . Retrieved March 9, 2012, from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/12502825/ns/dateline_nbc/
Shocking Facts about Child Abuse. (2009, September 29). Dream Catchers for Abused Children . Retrieved March 9, 2012, from http://dreamcatchersforabusedchildren.com/abuse/statistics/
Sullivan, B. (2006, February 3). After The Show, Talk To Your Kids: Predator Series An Excellent Chance For Dialogue. MSNBC TV . Retrieved March 9, 2012, from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11115502/ns/msnbc_tv-101/