It’s no longer news that child predators have taken to plying their dirty trade online. The perpetrators of the despicable act of child predation take advantage of the anonymity that the internet provides. And hide behind false avatars, profiles and persona to connect with and sexually victimize children online. According to NYTimes.com, a staggering 45 million photos and videos were identified as child sexual abuse material in 2018 alone. Just imagine that, millions graphic content of exploited kids being shared online by perverts. As a parent, you’re responsible for your child’s safety online and that’s probably why you’re here looking for how to protect your child from online predators. We’ve researched the topic and are going to take through important steps you can take to protect your child from online predators. Read on for more information.

The bulk of the responsibility for child online safety falls on parents. Law enforcement agencies and a number of organizations are working hard at tackling the problem of child sexual abuse online. However, they encounter a lot of challenges that include reluctant tech companies and ingenious child predators. This is why your active role in protecting your child on the internet is important. You can do this by:

Discussing internet safety and set rules

As your children grow old enough to surf the internet by themselves, it’s important that you teach them the proper ways to interact with other people online. You can start telling them these things as soon as they’re able to watch and understand those funny videos you enjoy. As you watch such videos together, make a practise of leaving polite, helpful and encouraging comments on people’s content. As you do this, your kid gets a chance to learn from your example. Use the opportunity to introduce internet safety discussions and how to differentiate between safe and unsafe interactions online.

You know it’s time to talk about rules of internet use and engagement, when they start surfing the web on their own, playing online multiplayer games and having social media accounts. Help them understand how these rules will keep them from being abused or bullied online. Involve them in the creation of these rules. That way, they take part in deciding how much time they spend on the internet and the type of content they can access.

Another great way to create online safety awareness in your child is by encouraging open discussions and communication in your family. Have conversations about the dangers that can be encountered on the internet; dangers like predators, fraudsters, cyber bullies and trolls. When kids have these conversations at home, they become aware of these things and will tread with caution when they’re using the internet. Another benefit of having open discussions is that it’ll help your kids be more comfortable about coming to you with any problematic or interesting encounters they have online. It’ll also create openings for other subjects that are important to kids, like sexuality.

Try out new apps and games with your child

This will help you identify which features place your child at risk and which are helpful. Features like a privacy setting that allows the user to control who views their profile and those that allow a user block certain contacts are good. You’ll also get to enjoy the added benefits of doing something your kid enjoys with him and build stronger connections. Just remember to approach each of these new experiences with an open mind.

If your child has any social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok etc) or blogs, try following them. Watch their statuses, stories and posts as these are often popular avenues for self-expression among youth. Talk to them about any concerns you may have with their content. But avoid doing so on their pages to avoid embarrassing them; do it privately at home via messaging apps instead.

Know the warning signs to look out for in children

We may be talking about how to protect your child from online predators but there’s a high chance that one is in contact with your child already. A child who’s being groomed by an online predator may become suddenly obsessed with being online. And they may become secretive about their online activities which can lead to deleting browsing history or changing screens when you come close. A related sign might be an unusual withdrawal from family and friends. They may stop being as communicative as they used to be or stop putting effort into expressing themselves. Another thing that might indicate contact with a predator is the sudden appearance of gifts and cash. When your child starts receiving such things, pay attention and quickly put a stop to it.

Related: Warning Signs of Sexual Abuse in Children

Children who engage in risky online behaviours should also be closely watched as they’re at a higher chance of being contacted by online predators. A child might start asking for more money or looking for ways to dupe you, this may be a sign that they’re being blackmailed for cash by a predator.

Know warnings signs of an online predator

Online predators are deliberate, manipulative and exploitative. They hide behind fake accounts to access and connect with children on the sites that they visit. They’ll stalk their victims and take the time to groom them to the point where the child will comply with their demands. Predators will comment on a child’s pictures, chat them up and ask for personal questions. They’ll even make sexual comments, ask sexually intimate questions or even request a face-to-face meeting offline. Teach your child to report such encounters to you and block such persons. Teach them to never share such personal information with strangers online or plan to meet offline.

Consider monitoring apps or parental control apps

This is a tricky one as not many parents are comfortable with the thought of spying on their kids. But if you already talked about internet safety and rules from the beginning, a monitoring app can be discussed too. Your child might protest but tell them that as their parent, having such an app on their devices would give you some peace of mind. Let them understand that the more responsible they are online, the less closely you’ll be monitoring them. In addition to allowing you to monitor time spent by your child on apps, our keep me safe family app, allows you to chat privately with connected devices. It’ll also send you notifications if your child steps out of your predefined locations.

The most important way parents can protect their children from online predators is by encouraging good rapport between them. People make mistakes and children, in their naivety, are wont to make a lot of mistakes. Predators capitalise on the feelings of guilt in their victims to wreak their havoc. However, if a child is able to open up to their parent or an adult they trust, they’ll be more resilient in their handling of online dangers.