The Internet is a valuable tool for research, learning and communication, but it can pose a number of threats to children — particularly those who lack appropriate adult supervision. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has compiled the following tips and information related to online safety for children, including these signs that your child may be at-risk online:
“Your child spends large amounts of time on-line, especially at night.
Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time on-line, particularly in chat rooms. Children on-line are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are on-line around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings on-line trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.
You find pornography on your child’s computer.
Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is ‘normal.’ Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them.
Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.
Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.
Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.
Your child is using an on-line account belonging to someone else.
Even if you don’t subscribe to an on-line service or Internet service, your child may meet an offender while on-line at a friend’s house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with on-line and/or Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.”
The agency advises that there are a number of things parents and other adults can do to ensure that children are not victimized via the Internet, including the following:
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