The internet and social media, both considerably beneficial instruments in their own right, can be two of the most the dangerous, readily available tools in this day and age. Children are falling prey to online sexual predators at an alarmingly high rate.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently launched Project iGuardian, a “national cyber safety campaign” to help teach children about the dangers of online sexual predation. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) agents recorded approximately one million hours devoted to child sexual exploitation cases and opened well over 3,500 investigations last year. Education in online safety can provide children and families with materials and methods that can lead to safer online decisions.
The following tips and tricks, posted on the Project iGuardian website, can help keep children and families safe while surfing the web:
- Think before you click
- Never share pictures of yourself online that you wouldn't want to be seen by your family, teachers or a total stranger.
- Set user profile to private so only real friends can get access. Know who you're chatting with-a "friend" is not always a friend.
- Don't share inappropriate pictures or personal information online like your full name, school, address or phone number, or user passwords.
- Don't meet up in person with anyone you met online.
- Report suspected abuse to law enforcement or a trusted adult.
- Stay out of chat rooms, unless your parents say otherwise.
- Do not open emails from people you don’t know. Delete them and do not click on links to sites that you do not recognize.
- Treat people online as you would in person: be polite!
According to HSI, “the internet is a great way for people to stay in touch with friends and family, and meet new people as well. Predators know this and they actively stalk online meeting places such as chat rooms and social media sites. They are adept at targeting children and luring them into dangerous or inappropriate behavior. This process is known as ‘grooming.’”
Be aware of the signs of grooming:
- Receiving gifts through mail
- Making calls to unknown numbers
- Turning away from family and friends
- Spending lots of time online
- Minimizing screen or turning off the monitor when you come into the room
For more information on iGuardian, please visit http://www.ice.gov/cyber-crimes/iguardian.htm