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Tips To Recognize An Online Predator And Help Protect Your Teen
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Tips To Recognize An Online Predator And Help Protect Your Teen

These days there are almost daily headlines about online sexual predators, but it's often hard to catch these folks given all the digital communication tools available to your teen. More and more teens are becoming Internet and communicating savvy using the latest tools and software available. Online predators are no different in that they will go to great lengths to communicate and draw out you're teen. As a parent it's important to understand the tools you're teen uses to communicate, what they are doing online as well as the potential information you're teen is giving out.

What can an online predator find out about you're child on Facebook?

I've found that my teenager and her friends often seem to compete on who can gather the most friends on Facebook. Sometimes even a simple background check is skipped to "boost the numbers". By simple background check I just mean some way to verify you or you're teen knows this person. Much of the time teens are approving friends of another friend because their friend approved them, but sometimes a creeper may slip through.

Personal information - If you're teen has friended an online predator, they now have access to you're teens profile information like a mobile phone number, potential address, family, etc. Depending on what you're teen shares, an online predator might be able to gain details like school, teachers, schedules, after school activities, addresses, phone numbers, siblings, etc.

Location - Many social networking sites and services are allowing users to post their location. Sites like Facebook and Foursquare are the most popular and allow you're teen to share not only where they are, but who they are with. An online predator doesn't have to be too familiar with an area since they can simply plug-in the location to google maps and get actual driving directions to the location. Even worse is that if the predator has you're teens home address then they could potentially wait for the teen to leave their current location and walk home.

Access to you're friends - It's bad enough we have to worry about what our teen is doing online and how we can protect them from online predators, but it's also very important on who you're teen is friending. On many social networking sites a person can view someone's profile simply by friending a friend of a friend.

Interests - While knowing what a teen interest may seem harmless on the surface, it can be a very powerful weapon to an online predator in gaining the trust of you're teen. It can also potentially help give away the location. For example, if a teen likes their high school softball teams page and posts that they are at softball practice, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the location of practice. The practice of an online predator gaining trust with a potential victim is called "grooming". This also applies to games if you're teen plays any kind of networked games on their phone or online. Networked games sometimes have their own built in chat tools meant to allow people to collaborate socially while playing a game.

Tip on How to recognize a potential online predator

Photos - Generally fake Facebook accounts won't have very many photos. I guess would be creepers are just too lazy to post lots of pics to seem more authentic. How many teens do you know with only 2 pictures of themselves?

Lack of personal information - An online predator isn't normally going to tell you how to see or speak with them directly. However, some online predators may attempt to call you're teen privately in a greater attempt to gain trust or groom.

Explicit behavior - If someone is having explicit conversations or sending explicit images to you're teen this can be sign of an online predator. Online predators will often either send or request nude photos of you're teen.

Stealthy - While this isn't a sure sign of an online predator it can be if it's mixed with some of the things I've listed above. An Internet predator isn't going come right out and tell you where they are or disclose any incriminating information. If something seems odd to you're teen, be sure to have an open line of communication so they can tell you and tap into you're wisdom. For example, if a new friend is talking with you're teen that says they can't talk over the phone, video chat, meet you somewhere with friends this but is somehow still talking to you're teen through other means, this could be considered stealthy behavior.

Isolation - Some online predators may seek to isolate you're teen from their friends or family in an attempt to isolate the teen for an assault.

Fake Personas

I'm going to make a special note here to let you know that sometimes teens will create fake Facebook or other social networking accounts to spy on their friends, boyfriends or girlfriends. For example, a teen might want to know if her boyfriend is flirting with any other girls. She might create a fake profile to lure the boy into flirting with the pseudo persona. I know things like this are extremely juvenile, but it happens. You need to be aware of any fake profiles you're teen maybe involved with since it too could also lure the wrong person.

What can you do if you suspect an online predator?

Contact the police - Contact you're local police department if you suspect you're teen is talking with an online predator. Many police departments devote large amounts of resources to protecting you're teen online.

Volunteer to become a decoy - There are many sites devoted to catching online predators. You can volunteer with these organizations and help identify potential online predators.

Tracking software - You can track you're teens online activities using keylogging or monitoring software. These days monitoring software is very powerful and can even be used for mobile devices. A parent can use this software to find out who their teen is talking to and help intervene in any potential harmful activity before it happens.

Educate yourself - Educate yourself about the tools you're teen is using these days. You're interest in today's age is protecting you're teen in many ways. As a parent you need to stay up to date on how teens are communicating and who they are communicating with. Youropenbook is and example of a tool a potential tool an online predator can use to view public status updates from Facebook. Try a few searches and you'll be amazed at what some teens are sharing publicly and may not even know it.

While it may seem scary these days to raise a teen with all of the potential ways you're teen could be attacked by an online predator. The important things to remember are;

• Keep communications open with you're teen so if you're is talking to an online predator they feel comfortable they can tell you about it.

• Know what you're teen is doing online. If you're teen isn't open or is being secretive about their online activities consider using monitoring software or keyloggers.

• Establish rules with you're teen on what they can and can't do online. I've posted the rules for family here. The more I learn, the more these rules get updated.

• Educate yourself about online predators and tools you're teenager is using to communicate. If you know the tools your teen is using to communicate with then you can help uncover ways an online predator may attempt to contact you're teen.

• If you're teen is using Facebook, be sure to check their privacy settings and understand what they are.

• Know your enemy. As a former Marine myself I was taught to always know you're enemy. An online predator is you're worst enemy because their desire is to harm you're teen in one way or another. There are too many headlines these days about teens being attacked and even killed by online predators so you need it becomes even more important to educate yourself about you're enemy.

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