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profiles of child predator

Protecting Your Children
from Online Predators

What is online stalking?

Online stalking is increasingly in the news these days.  Online stalking, also known as cyberstalking, is a form of harassment using Internet technologies.  This type of harassment can exist online or it can escalate into a real-world situation.  Either way, it is very disturbing.  When the victims are young people, we call these stalkers "online predators".   An online predator, like any predator, can be any age or sex.

In Canada, Section 264 of the Criminal Code defines harassment as a crime.  This means that any action that causes a person to "fear for their safety or the safety of anyone known to them" could be considered harassment.  Such actions include:

  • repeatedly following a person from place to place
  • repeatedly communicating with a person, either directly or indirectly
  • being watched at home, at work or anywhere else a person happens to be
  • engaging in threatening conduct directed at the person or any member of their family
As with all laws, legislation relating to harassment apply to incidents that take place both in the real world and on the Internet.

Profile of an online predator

Online Predators
  • most likely male
  • seductive
  • introverted
  • sadistic
  • sexually indiscriminate
  • morally indiscriminate

How predators work:

Some online predators gradually seduce their targets through the use of attention, affection, kindness, and even gifts. They are often willing to devote considerable amounts of time, money, and energy in this process. They listen to, and empathize with, kids' problems. They will be aware of their latest music, hobbies, and interests. These individuals attempt to lower young people's inhibitions by gradually introducing sexual context and content into their conversations. There are other predators, however, who immediately engage in sexually explicit conversations with children.  This more direct attempt may include harassment or stalking.  Predators may also be evaluating children they come in contact with online for future face-to-face contact.

How kids are victimized:

Children can be victimized by conversation, whether it be in a chat room or via e-mail, or by being shown sexually explicit information and material.

Children, especially adolescents, are often curious about sexuality and sexually explicit material. They may be moving away from the total control of parents and seeking to establish new relationships outside their family. This being the case, some children and adolescents actively seek out sexually explicit materials and strangers with an particular interest in them. Sex offenders targeting children will use and exploit these tendencies. Young teens may also be attracted to and lured by online offenders closer to their age who, although not technically child molesters, may be dangerous.

How to minimize the chances of your child becoming a victim

  • Talk to your children about sexual victimization and potential online dangers.
  • Spend time with your children online. Have them teach you about their favourite online destinations.
  • Keep the computer with Internet access in a common room in the house - never in your child's bedroom. It is much more difficult for your child to establish a relationship with a predator if the computer screen is visible to a parent or another member of the household.
  • If your children are young, steer them away from chat rooms altogether.  Older children should only participate in chat rooms you approve of, such as monitored areas.
  • If your children are young, share the family e-mail address with them, rather than giving them their own e-mail accounts. As your children get older, they can have their own e-mail address, with their mail still residing in your account.  You can retrieve the family's e-mail and ask your children about the mail that's addressed to them. Be aware that your child could be contacted through regular mail, as well.
  • Find out what computer safeguards are used at your child's school, the public library, and at the homes of your child's friends. These are all places outside your normal supervision.
  • No matter what, your child is not to blame for encounters with online predators.  The offender always bears the complete responsibility for his or her actions.
  • Instruct your children to:
    • never download pictures from an unknown source, as there is a good chance they could be sexually explicit images
    • choose a genderless screen name and never reveal their age
    • follow their family online agreement, or the Media Awareness Network's My Online Rules: post them by the family computer to remind your children to protect their privacy and be safe on the Internet
How to know if your child is being targeted by an online predator

Here are some clues that may indicate your child has been targeted by an online predator:

  • Your child spends large amounts of time online.
    Most children that fall victim to online predators spend large amounts of time online, particularly in chat rooms. They may go online after dinner and on the weekends. They may be kids of working parents who have told them to stay at home after school. They go on the Internet to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information.  In such cases, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent online, and how this time is spent.
  • You find pornography on the family computer.
    Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children.  Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is "normal." Parents should be aware of the fact that a child may hide these pornographic files on diskettes, especially if the computer is used by other family members.
  • Your child receives phone calls from people you don't know, or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.
    Most online predators want to talk to the children on the telephone. They like to engage in "phone sex" with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex.

    While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. With Caller ID, they can easily find out the child's phone number.

  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know.
    It is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child or teen to travel across the country to meet them.
  • Your child or teen turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
  • Your child or teen becomes withdrawn from the family and their friends.
    Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will exaggerate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization. Also, if children are avoiding their friends or skipping classes, they may be attempting to meet with the predator.
  • Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else.
    Even if you don't subscribe to an Internet service, your child may meet an offender while online at a friend's house or the library. Most computers come pre-loaded with Internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.

Some children are particularly vulnerable to online predators.  Children who are most at risk may display the following traits:
  • new online & unfamiliar with netiquette
  • actively seeking attention/affection
  • rebellious
  • isolated or lonely
  • curious
  • confused regarding sexual identity
  • easily tricked by adults
  • allured by subcultures outside of parents' world

What to do if you suspect your child is communicating with an online predator

Should any of the following situations arise in your household, you should immediately contact your local police:

    • your child or anyone in the household has received child pornography
    • your child has been sexually solicited by someone
    • your child has received sexually explicit images from someone
  • Use these easy tips to find out where your child has been on the Internet and review what has been saved on your child's computer.  Pornography or any kind of sexual communication can be a warning sign.
  • Monitor your child's access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, etc.), and monitor your child's e-mail. Online predators almost always meet potential victims via chat rooms. After meeting a child online, they will continue to communicate electronically, often via e-mail.

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