Online Predators Characteristics
The Internet holds special dangers because predators quickly take advantage of Web anonymity to build online relationships with the naïve and inexperienced. The vast majority of predators (89% in one study) routinely scan chat rooms, instant messaging, and email or discussion boards to establish contact. Many pre-teens and teens use online areas to search for vulnerable candidates. The same study showed that only about 40% of parents’ review whom their kids are contacting or what messages are being sent.
The predator looks for a child to whom he is attracted, draws them into a relationship by learning where they are vulnerable, and says whatever needs to be said in order to draw them into the relationship – all without parental knowledge. Their targets are gradually seduced through attention, affection, kindness and gifts. They often spend considerable time, money, and effort at this stage. They are informed about the latest music and hobbies that interest kids. They listen to their problems and sympathize with them often, exaggerating the problems in an attempt to drive a wedge between parent and child.
After friendship and trust have been established, sexual comments are gradually introduced. Questions about body descriptions follow. For some predators such information is enough. Abduction predators attempt to established places and times to meet. The predator now feels secure in his relationship with the child and pleads for his victim to remain silent. Most predators are computer savvy and use many strategies to avoid being tracked. Most Internet predators communicate with each other as well as their victims and develop hi-tech approaches to target and abuse their prey.
Do not be confused. Predators do not randomly select their victims but target children to whom they are attracted and ones they can control. Troubled children are at higher risk, but well-adjusted children can also be sucked in because of their desire to please and be well liked. Young adolescents are the most vulnerable since they are exploring their sexuality, are moving away from parental control and looking for new relationships outside the family. They are most likely to take uncalculated risks without understanding the implications.
Characteristics of those most vulnerable might include: new to online activity, becoming aggressive computer users, apt to try risky activities, actively seeking attention or affection, rebellious, isolated or lonely, curious, exhibit confused sexual identity, or are attracted by subcultures. Parents beware: Kids think they know the dangers on the Internet while they remain quite naïve.