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HomeAnonymousOnline predators remain a threat to children in the US

Online predators remain a threat to children in the US


Dustin Albright, executive director of Garfield County Child Advocacy and the Care Campus, is concerned about children being abused and bullied online.

"We need to be aware of what children are doing on the Internet," he said. "It's probably not a good idea for a kid to be locked in their room with a computer."

A 12-year-old El Reno girl was reported missing Thursday (Aug 18) afternoon for almost two hours. During the search, police revealed she got into a vehicle with a man and woman, who they believe she met online.

"I think she went to meet this person at a park," said the girl's grandmother, Jeanie Walker. "And it ended up being a grown man."

The girl was found safe in Weatherford around 5pm and was returned to her parents. The two suspects found with the girl were taken into custody by police.

Albright is familiar with these kinds of predators. He was an Enid Police Department officer and worked online pretending to be a child to catch predators.

"I would set up meetings, and we would go and apprehend them," Albright said.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, regardless of how children were exploited, directly or as a third-party, the offender/child relationship appeared to strongly indicate the offender's goals.

Of the offenders for whom goals could be determined, those in "direct communication," 52% to 64% seemed to want to acquire sexually explicit images of children; 32% to 45% to have sex with children; and 4% to 8% to engage in sexual conversation/roleplay with children.

With the increase in computer and online gaming usage, children are being exposed to more information, and inherent dangers, than ever, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Between school and entertainment, on average, children spend four to six hours per day watching or using screens, and teens average up to nine hours.

An unsupervised child on the Internet could see violence, stunts, sexual content, negative stereotypes or racism, substance abuse, cyberbullies or predators.

While there are many platforms that are safe and even have positive influences for children, it is important to stay involved in a child's Internet usage, Albright said.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency recommends monitoring who your child is chatting with. There are many games that allow direct or group messaging, not to mention social media direct messaging or chat rooms. In general, your child should know who they are messaging outside of Internet platforms in order to verify their identity.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children encourages normal safeguards while realising children present additional challenges because of their natural characteristics: innocence, curiosity, desire for independence and fear of punishment. Parents need to consider these characteristics when determining how to protect your data and the child.

Online predators present another significant threat, particularly to children, according to Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. Because the Internet is anonymous, it is easy for people to misrepresent themselves and manipulate children.

Predators going after children online can have a variety of motives and tactics.

Online enticement can involve enticing a child to share sexually explicit images, meeting in person for sexual purposes, engaging the child in a sexual conversation or role-playing or to sell or trade the child's sexual images to others, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Most victims, 78%, are girls and ages range up to 17, with a mean age of 15.

Parents are encouraged to be involved with their kids. Keep computers in open areas where easily monitored, according to Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. Set rules and warn about dangers. Make sure your child knows the boundaries of what they are allowed to do on the computer.

Parents should talk to children about the dangers of the Internet so that they recognise suspicious behaviour or activity, according to CISA. They should discuss the risks of sharing certain types of information and the benefits to only communicating and sharing information with people they know. – Enid News & Eagle, Okla./Tribune News Service

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