2) Recognize that most kids practice safe online behaviors. With a lot information and instruction being given to kids these days about Internet safety through schools, public service announcements, and at home by parents, most kids are not at risk from predators online. Most are, in fact, quite savvy knowing what to do if they’ve been approached by a stranger online, or when receiving a sexual solicitation. Still, wise parents will be proactive making sure their children are knowledgeable in Internet safety skills.

3) Kids who interact with unknown persons online (“friending” and communicating with strangers using Internet chatrooms, instant and text messaging, and engaging in sexual discussions) are setting the table for victimization by online predators. The more kids engage in interaction with unknown persons, the more at-risk they become. Parents should make preventing these types of interaction (by discussions, setting clear boundaries, and establishing consequences) a top priority in their home.

4) Kids who are at-risk offline are at-risk online. It’s important for parents to understand that kids who are risk takers offline (behavioral problems, sexually active, drug or alcohol usage) are more likely to take risks online including interacting with unknown persons, establishing relationships with them, and ultimately meeting them face-to-face. Predators prey on vulnerable kids who may come from broken or abusive homes, suffer from loneliness and depression, and have trouble connecting with their peers. Parents should evaluate whether their kids demonstrate at-risk behaviors and strive to address these issues and their causes whether offline or online.

5) The old rules still apply. It’s simply wise for parents to follow Internet usage guidelines experts have been advocating for years: Establish clear boundaries and consequences. Strategies such as not allowing kids to post personal information online, limiting access to the Internet at home to specific amounts of time, for specific purposes and in public areas, and requiring kids to notify parents if they receive e-communication from an unknown person, are all good ways to minimize the risks of kids falling victim to an online predator.

6) Teach healthy, God-honoring sexuality. Since most kids who fall victim to an online predator do so willingly, it’s imperative that parents make sure they are proactive in teaching their kids biblical values regarding sexuality, self-esteem and purity.

Published June 22, 2009.

Source Material:

Trends in Arrests of “Online Predators”: Crimes Against Children Research Center http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/CV194.pdf

Online “Predators” and Their Victims: American Psychological Association; American Psychologist (journal), Feb-March, 2008.

http://www.apa.org/journals/releases/amp632111.pdf

Child Sexual Abuse Statistics: National Center for PTSD http://www.ncptsd.va.gov/ncmain/ncdocs/fact_shts/fs_child_sexual_abuse.html


Jim Liebelt is a 20+ year youth ministry veteran and is the Senior Editor of Publications for HomeWord, including oversight of the "Good Advice Parent Newsletter," Today’s HomeWord daily devotional, and HomeWord’s Culture Brief. Jim is also a presenter for HomeWord's parent seminar, "Building Healthy Morals and Values." Jim joined the HomeWord staff in 1998, and has served over the years in various pastoral ministries, as a youth ministry and parenting seminar speaker, an adjunct youth ministry instructor at Gordon College, a national presenter for Group Magazine Live, and has served on the council of the New England Network of Youth Ministries.