Internet Safety for Teens and Parents
The Gilpin County Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to keeping the children of Gilpin County safe from Internet/Cyber predators. This is an alarming trend and we want to provide you with some useful information and tools to help you understand what an internet predator is, how they operate and how to keep your children safe.
Sexual predators DO exist and are a very real threat. They target both boys and girls of all ages and use the anonymity of the internet to their advantage since they can be whomever they want. These predators and child pornography viewers aren’t dirty old men in trench coats lurking in alleys. They come from all backgrounds.
Profile of an online predator:
It’s becoming harder and harder to pinpoint, as the internet provides opportunities for those sexual predators who otherwise would have resisted their urges. The online predator blends into society, is typically clean cut and outwardly law abiding. They are usually white, middle‐aged or younger and male. They use their position in society to throw off suspicion and can even rise to be a pillar of society and the community while actively pursuing children. They almost always appear trusting to both parents and the targeted child. Statistics show that 39% of girls and 24% of boys have been contacted online by someone with no connection to them or their friends and made them feel scared or uncomfortable.
Risky Online Behaviors
With the advent of social networking sites and detailed chat profiles, predators don’t need to work very hard to piece together information about a child online. Predators can judge by the appearance of a profile or by the behavior that a child is exhibiting whether he or she might be a prime target for an online relationship. Teens who don’t use privacy settings on social networking and gaming sites often place their information – including their deepest desires, likes and dislikes, real‐time moods, pictures, addresses and phone numbers – for anyone to see. The more risky behaviors kids engage in online, the more likely they will receive an online sexual solicitation.
These risky behaviors include:
Posting personal information
Interacting with online strangers
Placing strangers on buddy lists
Sending personal information to strangers
Visiting X‐rated sites
Seeking pornography online
Talking about sex with strangers
The internet is a worldwide network that stretches far beyond the grasp of the US judicial system, therefore, parents must be on guard to protect their families. Your child may be in contact with an online predator if he or she:
Becomes secretive about online activities
Becomes obsessive about being online
Gets angry when he or she can’t get online
Receives phone calls from people you do not know or makes calls to numbers that you do not recognize
Receives gifts, mail, or packages from someone you do not know
Withdraws from family and friends
Changes screens or turns off the computer when an adult enters the room
Begins downloading pornography online
If you feel your child is in danger, DO NOT IGNORE IT!!!
Contact local law enforcement immediately. Information that could help law enforcement is often time‐sensitive and the sooner you call, the sooner they can investigate the problem.
Save all of the email, text messages, documents, chat logs or whatever else you have that may be helpful in an investigation.
Keep the lines of communication OPEN with your child.
What Kids Can Do
Activities that may seem fairly harmless to your child can lure the attention of predators. Here are some precautions your child can take — with your help — that may help him or her steer clear of predators.
Profile and content
The profile information and content you generate is critical. The images, opinions and personal information you share can be used by others to manipulate you, blackmail you, or literally locate you. Use a neutral profile photo that doesn’t show your face; consider a photo of an object or landscape. Never take nude or semi-nude photos of yourself or allow someone else to do so. Remember, anything you say or post can live forever online if re-posted by someone else.
Select gender-neutral and age-appropriate screen names. You can inadvertently give out a lot about yourself with a screen name like “britt98” (Brittany, born in 1998?). Screen names that suggest sex, violence or drugs, which might seem fun or funny, can draw attention from the wrong people.
On Facebook and other social sites, lock down your privacy settings so that only your approved friends can see your photos, video and updates. Leaving privacy open is like inviting strangers to tag along with you everywhere you go.
While it may be tempting to build the largest friend list possible, to appear more connected or popular, you should only accept friend requests from people you actually know, and trust
Say no to creepers
If you are contacted, in any format, by someone you don’t know, do not respond. Use your settings to block that person from contacting you. Never agree to meet someone in person whom you met online. If you’re contacted by an adult you know, talk to your parents about the communication.
Posting is Forever
It's important for teens to realize that anything they post online, while editable, can be saved while it's live. Any user can save, keep or distribute photos or text. This means that sexual photos, photos depicting drug use, gang signs, threats against others or criminal behavior are all potentially permanent collector's items for their classmates, friends, enemies, parents and total strangers.
What Parents Can Do
Every child is different. Different ages, maturity levels and special circumstances will dictate what’s appropriate for each child. The most important thing parents can do is stay involved with kids’ online activities and help them understand the dangers. Sooner or later they’ll be on their own, and will need that foundation of online common-sense. Until then …
Keep a computer in a well-trafficked room in your home. Remember that smartphones are just small computers … limit private access to them as well.
Stay involved in your child’s online activities. Insist on access (including passwords!) to social networking, e-mail, texting and gaming. Check them periodically.
Find out what online safeguards are in place at your child's school, friends’ homes, and any other place where your child may be using computers or video games.
Consider downmarket mobile phones that don’t offer photo, video or Internet capabilities.
Remember, predators aren’t always strangers. “Grooming” by trusted adults plays a huge role in child predation. Watch for changes in your child’s relationships with adults. Adults who work with children and teens have professional boundaries; cultivating significant online or text-based relationships with individual children is not appropriate.
Listed below are some websites that you can visit to educate yourself and your child about the dangers of these predators, what you can do to protect yourselves and what to do if you believe you or your child has contact with someone who you believe may be an internet or cyber predator.