5 sneaky tricks online predators use to lure your children from safety

Do you know who your kids are talking to online? You might be surprised to find out.

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  • The biggest­­­ threat to children today is not the predators sitting in the park waiting to snatch kids away from their parents. It is the predators sitting in the comfort of their own homes, on their computers, connecting with their young victims online.

  • Online predators use chat rooms and social networks, like Facebook, SnapChat and Instagram, to uncover personal information about your child and build inappropriate relationships.

  • This is a fast growing problem that begins as soon as a child uses a smartphone or a tablet. The younger the child the easier it is for the predator to develop the relationship and exploit them.

  • To help protect your children from online predators, take note of these five sneaky tricks they use to lure your kids in:

  • 1. Fake boyfriend/girlfriend

  • Many online predators play with children's emotions and their want to be loved. Some predators have been known to research the social media profiles of a child and create a fake account of a boy or girl that matches the type of person the child is attracted to. Based upon the child's social media profile, predators can find out where the child is from, what music they like, movies that interest them and so much more without even being a 'friend' on their social media. They will even like what the kid likes and claim similar or identical interests.

  • The predator starts out by sending a simple friend request or invite to chat. Once they communicate regularly for weeks or even months, they will shift the relationship from friendly to romantic or intimidating.

  • Predators often try to convince their victims to send sexy pictures, convincing them that it is what every boyfriend or girlfriend does for their partner. Sometimes they even set up a time and place in which they can meet in person.

  • Always be aware of who your child is talking to online. There are free mobile apps, such as WebSafety, that provide alerts and monitor your child's texts, social media, and Internet use. Take advantage of these tools to help monitor who your child is talking to online.

  • 2. Flattery

  • Children turn to social media for friendship, support and to boost their self-esteem. Online predators love to take advantage of these emotions. They reach out with flattery and say things like, "You look so gorgeous." They use compliments in an effort to create a relationship with your child.

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  • They might even send gifts in an effort to gain the child's trust, and to get their personal information such as their address. For example, a free download of your child's favorite song to help them feel better.

  • Teach your children to never accept gifts from people they have never met, even something as simple as a music download. Be sure to discuss with your child anything that you notice on their social media that doesn't seem right.

  • 3. Chatting privately and secretly

  • Online predators prefer to work in secret. Instead of making public comments, they send private messages through online chat rooms, Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. They also target children on online games, especially if they have a chat feature.

  • Online predators typically work under pseudonyms. If they can gain a child's trust, they can slowly ask for personal information (to track where he or she lives) or solicit photos. They will ask the child to keep the relationship secret from both their parents and friends.

  • Many social media platforms have filters to help weed out many of these types of messages. Be sure to place those filters on your child's social media platforms. Walk them through it and tell them to never remove them. Be aware of the sites or apps your kid uses. Just like you tell them not to speak to strangers in person, teach them never to speak to someone online they have never met either.

  • 4. Intimidation

  • When a child tries to end a relationship with an online predator, the predator often uses intimidation tactics to separate themselves from others or keep them from leaving the relationship. For example: threatening to tell their parents or making their nude photos public.

  • Predators also use this type of intimidation to get kids to do what they want them to do, including: meeting them somewhere or sending pornographic photos.

  • Teach your child to approach you with anything that troubles them. Let them know they can always count on you to help, no matter what they have done. Be aware of your child's emotions. If there is a drastic change in emotion such as depression or fear be sure to speak to them. You are your child's only defense from this type of intimidation.

  • 5. Playing 'the good guy'

  • Many times, children believe that no one understands them, especially their parents. So when a person they meet online tells them everything they want and need to hear, that's hard to ignore. Predators play "the good guy." They take the child's side on every issue and convince them that they are the only person who cares about them.

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  • Create an environment in your home where your child can feel validated and heard. Let him or her know they can always approach you with their problems. Make a sincere effort to understand their feelings and viewpoints.

  • Protecting your child online is an important and daunting task. There is always something new to try, and online predators are always alert and ready to attack.

  • A free app was recently launched that helps you monitor what your child is doing on their mobile phones and tablets, called WebSafety.

  • WebSafety allows you to monitor texts for cyberbullying, apps that have been downloaded, websites visited, social media for Facebook and Instagram including photos. Additionally, it has geofencing capabilities and a curfew function that allows you to disable the cellphone at a preset time.

  • Don't be afraid to give your child a smartphone or tablet, just be ready to equip those mobile devices with the free WebSafety app. Download the WebSafety app today!

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Jessica is a social media coordinator for The Younique Foundation. Volunteering for non-profit organizations, traveling to different places and trying new things is what she lives for.

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