"Good parents are the best defense against online predators," said Child Advocacy Center director Sharon De Boer. "It is important that parents are educated on how to protect our children from becoming victims."
Every month the Rutherford County Child Protective Investigative Team gives the District Attorney’s Office 50-60 new cases that include child abuse, child sexual abuse, and drug endangered children cases. The Child Protective Investigative Team is seeing an increasing number of cases that involve online predators.
Those predators are targeting children through their cell phone, iPods, iPads, and laptop computers using gaming and social media such as Instagram and Snapchat.
According to online child safety website PureSight, 95% of teens aged 12-17 are online at school, at home, anywhere that they can use their cell phones and other technology.
One in five teenagers who regularly log on to the Internet says they have received an unwanted sexual solicitation online.
"The most alarming statistic," continued De Boer, "Only 25% of children who are sexually approached on the Internet tell their parent or a trusted adult that it happened."
"When we take our children to a playground, we are constantly watching our kids to make sure they are safe," stated Brittnie Noble, Child Advocacy Center Community Education Coordinator. "Parents need to have the same heightened awareness on the Internet playground. We have to watch where our children are going on the Internet, what games they are playing, and who they are talking to. Encourage your children not to talk to strangers on the Internet and to never give out personal information."
According to the Internet Safety 101 website, online grooming is a process that can take a short time or extend over a period of time. Conversations online can appear innocent initially, but often involve a level of deception.
As the predator (usually an adult) tries to create a relationship in order to gain a child’s trust, he may initially lie about his age or never tell the child his real age, even after forming an online relationship.
Most times the perpetrator will know popular music artists and movies, sports team information, or a hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate to the child.
"The key to keeping our children safe on the Internet is to build an open honest relationship with our children, ask the right questions, and listen," De Boer said. "It is important to look at your child’s technology. For example, go into their cell phone and view who they are talking to, what adults may be saying to them, and any photos they may have been sent. If you find any inappropriate sexually explicit information contact your local law enforcement."
The Child Advocacy Center provides Darkness to Light child sexual abuse prevention trainings to schools, daycares, law enforcement, churches, and civic groups to educate parents, grandparents, and professionals that work with children.
Bring a Darkness to Light child sexual abuse prevention training to your organization and learn more about how to protect your children from online predators.
In Rutherford County, contact Brittnie Noble at 615-867-9000. In Cannon County, contact Cannon County Coordinator Cassell Galligan-Davis at 615-563-9915.