Yesterday we discussed the importance of setting ground rules in our homes to help prevent our children from being victimized by internet predators. Rules are great and needful, but kids can be like sharp minded attorneys. They’ll look for loopholes and push us right to the limit of our boundaries. Sometimes, they step over the edge.
Today, I’ll summarize 10 signs to watch for that suggest our children are breaking the rules, from an article found on the InternetSafety.com website.
If you do notice these signs in your children, please exercise prudence. It doesn’t mean they are breaking the rules, but it does mean you should put yourself on alert to investigate matters more fully. Do your best to engage them in an open dialog.
- You or your child receives unusual amounts of unsolicited email or pop-ups.
- Your child tries to block the computer screen or quickly closes the window in which he is typing.
- Your child spends an unusual amount of time online, especially in the evenings.
- Your child changes her password and/or will not share it with you.
- Your child uses an online account other than her own.
- Your child withdraws from family or friends.
- You discover photos of strangers on your child’s computer.
- Your child receives phone calls from strangers.
- Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don’t know.
- You discover inappropriate images or files on your child’s computer.
Sometimes your investigation will turn up matters that you may not be prepared to handle yourself. If that happens, it’s time to call upon expert help, our law enforcement officials. It is always appropriate to involve law enforcement if someone in your home receives pornography, or if your child receives a request of a sexual nature from someone who knows he/she is under the age of 18, or if your child receives explicit files or images from someone who knows he/she is under the age of 18.
I can’t emphasize this last point enough. Today’s teens widely practice “sexting.” They send inappropriate images of themselves to their friends through their cell phone’s text messaging system. I learned this from a friend who works as a principle at a Christian school. Many of the Christian high school teens, who were all raised in fine God-fearing homes, were caught doing this. The school banned cell phones on campus and expelled the teens caught red handed. Temptation abounds and nobody is immune.
In March of 1998, Congress authorized the creation of the Cyber Tipline. Many of our government’s law enforcement agencies as well as other international, state and local law enforcement are linked into the Cyber Tipline network. As of October 2009, they have received and investigated almost 750,000 calls, 46, 731 of which are for Online Enticement of Children for Sexual Acts. The numbers are staggering!
The Cyber Tipline is a resource available to all of us. The number is 1-800-843-5678. You can learn more by visiting their website at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. Their fact sheet can be downloaded here.