Ask Parry - How Safe is My Child From Internet Sexual Predators?
I have heard that most child victims of Internet sexual predators are shy, loners. They aren’t generally active in school sports and may not have many friends in real life. They tend to be more naïve than most. If my child is a good student, popular and into sports, with lots of friends, does this mean I don’t have to worry?
A Worried Parent
Dear Worried Parent:
On May 17th, 2003 when a young girl in the United States was killed by someone she met online, with whom she intended to engage in sex offline, we learned that the profile of a typical teen victim was flawed.
Christina Long had just turned thirteen, and was an honors student, co-captain of the cheerleading squad, beautiful and popular. Hers was the first confirmed death of a child by an Internet sexual predator in the U.S. (Others had disappeared and Internet predators were suspected, but this was the first case where proof of the murder and the Internet predation existed.) She was apparently reaching out to meet adult men online, and would meet them offline for the purposes of engaging in sexual relations.
This case has changed everything we thought we knew. Since then, we have learned that many preteens and teens don’t fit the “loner” mold. Instead, we are learning that they are often seeking thrills and taking risks. Most are “at risk” in other ways as well.
Remember, all children are potential victims. It’s just a matter of the predator coming up with the most convincing lure to get even careful teens and preteens to let down their guard.
Only good communication and an appreciation of the risks will keep our children safe. And that takes both parent and child. Keep the lines of communication open. It’s all about parenting, not technology.