According to a survey released by Shared Hope International in August, a survey of online group Netmums asked 825 children ages 7 to 16 years old and 1,127 adults questions about their online habits and permissions. Those statistics showed that almost half (42.1 percent) of the children who have Internet access have been exposed to online pornography and one in 12 have exchanged sexual messages with other people. One in every 25 admitted to sending graphic photos of themselves to someone online, while one in 20 admitted they have arranged a secret meeting with someone they met online. The survey also showed that one in three parents allow their children to use the Internet without restriction or supervision.
Those statistics sadden, but don’t shock, many in local law enforcement who have seen these cases increase in recent years.
“It’s just really tragic,” Walker County District Attorney Bill Adair said recently of a case related to an alleged Internet predator.
Authorities encourage parents to talk to their teens about their Internet usage and what they should do if they are approached by someone online.
Other tips from the National Children’s Advocacy Center are:
•Never give out personal information online. Remind teens not to share their home address, school name or phone number.
•When creating screen names, do not include personal details like last name or date of birth.
•Remind teens not to meet someone who reached out to them online, predators often lie about their age or location in order to gain access to their victims.
•Social networking sites like Facebook have minimum age requirements for membership for a reason.
Do not allow younger children to set up profiles on these sites and lie about their age.
•Do not add “friends” to social media that are not known in real life. Teens and children often share information on these sites that could be used to find them.
•Ask children or teens to report any objectionable material they see to their parents or teachers. Often these messages are unsolicited and the teens block them rather than reporting them out of fear that their parents will reprimand them.
•Require teens to provide parents with passwords to all accounts and phones and be aware of who their children are friends with and interacting with.