Chatrooms are predator’s heaven and the predominant location where predators meet children. There are hundreds of sites where kids are naturally curious, and many think it is no big deal. A large variety of social media sites such as Omegle are disturbing and ripe with nudity and explicit sexual behavior. In addition to being havens for predators, many gaming sites also have chatroom capabilities leaving children vulnerable to potential exploitation. Many of these sites have webcam functionality where there are ways to turn the webcam on without knowing we are being watched.

Facebook and other popular social media networking sites are no exception for predators. They often create fake identities and pose as teenagers, the child never the wiser. Many of us become friends with strangers online, with 70% accepting “friend requests” regardless of ever meeting in real life.

More than 52% of teens have given out personal information online to someone they do not know offline, including personal photos or physical description of themselves, 69% have updated their status on social networking sites that include a physical location, 28% chatted with strangers, and 12% have posted their cellphone number.

Predators are master manipulators and provide the online support children and teens are looking to build trust and verify the feelings. They work at becoming friends and gaining trust, which is known as the grooming process. This process can continue for days or weeks before the pedophile begins with sexual topics, asking for explicit photos or a personal meeting. By this time, an emotional connection has already been made. After photos have been sent, sometimes sextortion occurs, extortion using sexual images.

This event occurs regularly, recently a Massachusetts 13-year-old who thought she was communicating with a teenager and sent him a sexual photo. This man is 35 years old and from England, later started threatening her if she did not send more photos. Fortunately, this man is now behind bars.

Another case involved a 12-year-old girl, a teacher had confiscated the girl’s phone and uncovered inappropriate text messages. The 28-year-old man from El Salvador was planning on picking this girl up from school.

Tips:
* Self-education: learn what children may be exposed to online, know the risks.
* e-mentoring children about chatrooms, game sites.
* Be aware of manipulative behavior, for example, gifts.
* Only friend people we know on social networking sites.
* Never meet in person without talking to an adult first.
* Screen retriever this application allows us to monitor our children’s activity wherever the device is  located.

Source: ( https://patch.com/massachusetts/sudbury/bp–stats-about-online-predators-and-precautions-parec47b01a336 )

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