Whenever parents think of keeping children safe online, their first and foremost worry is that of children stumbling on pornographic sites or websites with similarly objectionable content. The mistake many a parent makes is the failure to approach the Internet from the vantage point of a child. Where parents are wary and even somewhat jaded, children are wide-eyed in their naivete and wonder about that new playground which suddenly opened up in front of them.
Being clear on stranger danger requires parental clarity on a number of issues:
The danger of wanting to be thought of as being popular with a school clique may lead to dangerous online behavior such as photo postings and even the creation of rather risque online profiles even if they are not grounded in reality. From such behavior it is only a short step to your child being contacted by an online predator in search of a young person whom to groom for a personal meeting.
Sexual solicitation made online is actually more common than you might imagine. Although many an overt sexual invitation may be declined, covert behavior is much more likely to be tolerated and in some cases may even appear flattering to the child. Know your child’s need for affirmation and be available to provide safe avenues to gain such confirmation of the child’s sense of self worth and attractiveness.
In many cases an online predator will seek to find out more information about a child. Asking for an address to send a birthday card, a phone number to call and wish good luck for a test, or even a cell number to be on hand if your child has an emergency are but some of the ploys used by predators to worm themselves into your child’s life and good graces.