I may be preaching to the choir and if I am, please bear with me. We are living in an unprecedented era where, in the age of social media, many of us are used to living our lives and sometimes posting our experiences on social media. It does not matter what platform on social media you post on (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.) what parents need to know is that there are some very good people with the best of intentions, and there are some very bad people who have the worst intentions known to man, all of them reading what’s on social media.
We have at least three areas in which the bad guys obtain information about your and your children.
- Parents post items about their children (good behaviors and troubled behaviors), photos of their children, their personal information to include names, the school they attend and the activities they are involved in.
- Children post items on social media where they may also discuss issues, they may be experiencing in life that they find enjoyable or issues they may be having with school or home life
- Some person intentionally or unintentionally forwards a post to others who may have good or bad intentions.
Often Parents don’t usually discover the people with bad intentions until something really horrible has happened, and by then the barn door has been wide open.
Criminal child molesters are monsters and whether we want to accept that fact or not, these monsters are out there everyday and in nearly every state looking for children who are easy prey. How many times have you heard about a teenage girl who meets someone on-line and runs away with that person? Often, the parents don’t discover the child’s on-line presence until after the child has gone missing.
Rather than belabor the point, know that we all should be extremely careful not to put too much information on social media where we have told our life’s stories/struggles and making it easier for child predators to get a foothold into our child’s life.
Know that these predators are cunning and very patient. They may sometimes groom a child (and sometimes the parent) for weeks, months or even years just to take the precise time to exploit the weakness either adults or the child themselves makes available.
Here are some simple suggestions I would recommend taking to keep you and your child safe from predators:
- Scrub your social media of identifying information about your child to include your child’s name, age, school he or she attends or regular activities they may participate in.
- Limit how much information you post about your children. Don’t post anything personal where a predator could use to find your child. Just as you should not write your child’s name on the outside of their school lunchbox or coat to keep the predator from knowing their name, if you post their photos it’s pretty much the same thing. It’s enough to know they may live in a particular city, but anything more than that is being too specific.
- Refrain from airing dirty laundry about your life or your child’s life. Never publicly give anyone any indication what goes on behind the four walls of your home (good, bad or indifferent). Doing so, gives that predator a foothold into your child’s life. Remember, the predator will be patient and say just the right things to either you or your child and keep on saying them until they are ready to strike.
- Posting things such as I’m a single parent, my children are looking forward to going here or there for our weekend getaway.
- Or, my child is in need of a tutor because he/she is doing badly in whatever subject or sport are all things that can be conversations starters with your or your child or a means to keep the ruse of a conversation going.
- Be aware of your child’s footprint on social media. There is no such thing as privacy when it comes to the Internet. You should regularly monitor and inspect what sites your child is visiting, posting and all friends they have on social media. A predator may even lie about their identity posing to be a child but in reality, they are an adult trolling to find victims. You need to know and have met all your child’s friends, especially the ones on social media. By now we have heard of or maybe even been the victim ourselves of being hacked on social media. What is to say that a child’s social media cannot be hacked and one of your child’s social media friends sets up a secret rendezvous.
- No child should ever be asked to or keep secrets from parents. If a person on any social media platform ever asks a child to keep a secret from their parent, that is a huge red flag.
- Educate yourself and your children in order to keep them safe. If you are ever in any doubt about the presence and prevalence of these sex offenders on social media, contact your local law enforcement agency. Just because a person’s name may not appear as a “registered sex offender” does not mean they are 100% safe for your children.
All law-abiding adults want to see our children (and all other children) safe from harm. Take the required steps to ensure you and your child are not vulnerable a very patient child predator. Lastly, predators have been known to groom adults in order to get next to that adult’s child, regardless of the child’s gender.