SafetyNet Blog

By Darlene Kanzler

Important Tips to Avoid Online Predators

Protect from online predators

As many people in San Diego have learned, John Kinloch, a first grade teacher in a Chula Vista elementary school was arrested on November 30, 2012 for possession of child pornography, using a minor in an obscene manner and luring a minor for a sex offense.

Reports indicate that the 41-year-old teacher posed as a 13-year-old girl on the social networking site Meetme.com as well as several other sites; one of his goals was to entice boys to send him nude photos of themselves.

After the initial wave of shock and outrage, many people have asked, “How common is this type of crime?” “How can I protect my children?”

Let’s begin by assessing the prevalence of online predators our children may be exposed to.

The United States government predicts that there are 50,000 Internet predators are online throughout the world at any given time.  Since the United States is the biggest producer and consumer of child pornography, there may be more predators online in the U.S. than in other countries.

The Crimes Against Children Research Center offers the following statistics:

  • 1 in 25 youth (about 4%) received "aggressive" sexual solicitations that included attempts to contact the youth offline. These are the episodes most likely to result in actual victimizations. (About one-quarter of these aggressive solicitations came from people the youth knew in person, mostly other youth.)
  • 1 in 25 youth (about 4%) were solicited to take sexual pictures of themselves. In many jurisdictions, these constitute criminal requests to produce child pornography.

So how do parents protect their children against online predators? 

We believe it is important not to avoid technology or ban it from your home.  Children growing up in today’s world will be using technology for the rest of their lives, it is vital that they know how to use it safely.  Begin by teaching your children how to use the Internet in age appropriate stages.

  • The legal age for a child to have a profile on sites like Facebook, Meetme.com and Instagram is 13.   Create family rules around the sending and posting of photographs, limit contact information and remember not to post family member’s schedules.
  • It is most appropriate for kids to socialize online with kids they know in real life.  I like to remind kids that when they meet someone on the Internet, the person may not be who they say they are and could easily be using someone else’s photograph.
  • Teach your kids what subjects should not be discussed online: sex, threats of violence, drugs, hate speech or illegal activities.
  • As teens get older, they may want to meet new people online but must be instructed not to meet these new friends off line unless they have a parent or guardian with them.
  • Gaming sites today also utilize the Internet, let kids know to only answer questions about the game and not to engage in personal conversations with strangers they may game with.
  • Online scams are abundant, teach kids how to recognize scams and remind them to never put personal information into these sites.

It may seem like it would be easier to keep our kids off of the Internet but that is not possible or desirable in today’s wired world.  Knowledge is power and we must empower our kids with the information they need to navigate the Internet safely.