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There is a lot of talk about securing your children's access to electronic devices, the web, etc. There are lots of scary stories about terrible things happening, no doubt many terrible things have happened.

However, what I have not been able to find is any solid statistical data. Data showing for example a dramatic rise in non parent abduction or internet facilitated child molestation, or some of the other terrible things.

Is there data to support this? What is the realistic risk for kids from this? Is it different for different ages and sexes? How does it compare to the other risks and channels for children to be abused in this way?

I might be naive but it seems a seriously overblown threat compared to the many other dangers our children face. It strikes me as something that sells a lot of books and lectures and makes scary TV shows rather than actually being a significant threat to children. However, I would be happy to be disabused of my complacency by hard data.

Anybody know of source?

And of course, if it is just one child it is terrible -- but we as parents have to carefully marshal our resources to protect our children from the serious threats while allowing them the liberty to grow and thrive and take risks on their own. When I was a kid I had free reign on a computer and it allowed me huge vistas of intellectual growth and enjoyment. Of course things were different back then, but I want my kids to have as much of that same experience as it is safe for them to have.

  • 1
    Significant. But the answer is most likely in proper education and warning of the horrors and not necessarily the restrictions to devices. They'll find a way around it if they really want. I know a family that lost their daughter to some internet ploy. Found in the desert murdered. Plus, I'm a web programmer. I know how easy it is to fail to totally secure anything, so there's never a guarantee even the biggest sites have made it impossible to stalk you with just basic use of their own platform. I teach my kids that everything is a scam, so be careful what you project – Kai Qing Apr 19 '16 at 22:55
14

It is certainly a threat, however numbers are very tricky to get hold of.

Having worked in the field of information security, privacy and forensics for the last 17 years or so, this is a question that gets asked of me a lot. I tend to lecture on the dangers of the internet, and then point out to the audience that I still bank online, and I use Facebook, as do my two eldest children.

In reality, the threat from online predation is incredibly small - but it is so scary many people would rather err on the safe side than take that risk.

My take on it is similar to yours - I don't block the kids internet access, but I do have the ability to monitor it if I want, and they know that.

I have also sat with them through the excellent Channel 4 film, Cyberbully, starring Maisie Williams, to show them what can happen, so they have a view of possible dangers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Op2CxCp3yZc

For some more info, have a read of https://skeptics.stackexchange.com/q/8033/619 which gives a wider view that may be useful

5

The internet is an increasingly large part of our everyday lives, being a major platform for media, entertainment, and communication, and providing an enormous ecosystem for business and jobs. Because of this, children should learn to use the internet from an early age.

An important and almost defining characteristic of internet communities is the anything-goes culture created by anonymity. To stay safe on the web, it is imperative to develop a mindset of assuming as little as possible and treating all interactions as potentially threatening. Children on the internet must fundamentally understand the hostile nature of the internet and adopt this mindset. This is achieved not by locking them out of major areas of the internet, but rather guiding them thru how to use the internet properly and safely, then trusting the child to learn on their own.

Most threats on the internet aren't due to child predators. They are do much more often to much more mundane social engineering attacks. Children must be used to all kinds of manipulative tactics that are used in advertising, scam schemes, fear mongering, to get malware installed, or just to mine reddit karma. Due to the relative scarcity of child predator attacks to these similar, but more mundane and easily exploitable attacks, the risk of child predators can be neglected in favor of risk management efforts that address the bigger picture. Being careful on the internet is important for everyone, but it's because of the many factors besides child predators.

3

I'm the mother of an 11-year-old girl who was recently caught talking to boys/men on Snapchat which was terrifying to me because my daughter is a follower and was just doing what her friends were doing. I confronted her with my concerns explained to her what could happen to her. I didn't tell her "because I said so" or shame her I showed her news videos and victim's stories. I didn't sugar coat anything.

I'm not sure if this was the best way but my daughter on her own deleted her accounts and has expressed to me that she understands now why I reacted the way I did and that. She had no idea that she could be possibly talking to bad people. There's no way to protect them 24/7 but I think giving her the knowledge of the dangers of the Internet has gave her a way to protect herself instead of just me demanding she not do it. I'm just a mom not a professional in anyway.

  • I think the asker was looking for data to make a good risk assessment. Your answer provides good advice, but is only tangentially related to the problem at hand. – William Grobman Nov 1 '16 at 18:14
3

There isn't much hard data, and what there is seems to come from individuals and organisations with an interest in talking up the problems. As with so many of these things, the risk is real but a lot smaller than some would have you believe. Fear sells, and the intersection of children and sex is always good for scary headlines.

As Kai Qing mentioned in the comments, the best solution is education. Restricting access has its place with young children, but sooner or later (probably sooner) they will figure out how to get around your restrictions.

You can reduce the risk a great deal by just teaching your children some commonsense rules. Here are mine:

  1. There are bad people in the world. Bullies who never grew up. Some of them are on the Internet pretending to be children. Never trust anyone you haven't met in real life.

  2. Anything that goes on the Internet can be copied and shared. Never do or say anything you wouldn't want to see on the school notice board tomorrow.

  3. If anyone tries to get you to do something bad, or rude, or that you don't like, log off and go tell a grown-up. Even if you've broken the rules, you won't get into trouble for it if you tell someone what has happened.

These rules are phrased for young children; with older children you can explain the sexual angle and also add something about how to meet an on-line friend for the first time in real life.

  • "Never trust anyone you haven't met in real life." And make sure your parents are there when you meet them in real life for the first time. Or the predator says "Your parents are right, you shouldn't trust anyone you haven't met in real life, so we should meet". – gnasher729 Apr 15 '18 at 16:05
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If by internet predators you mean violent rapists who use internet to find victims and lure them into real life meeting, it seems to be a non-problem made up by the sensationalist mass media.

Real sex abusers of children almost always rape or sexually abuse somebody they know, most commonly a relative. Fathers, stepfathers, adoptive fathers, foster fathers, posses a very real and significant risk. Uncles, big brothers, cousins rape little girls or boys often. Male babysitters commonly abuse little boys or girls. All the above is much, much more dangerous than the internet.

http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/amp-632111.pdf

Real internet predators just seek for adolescent girls who wants to have sex with them. They don't conceal their desire to have sex, and seldom pretend to be teenagers. What they do is called statutory rape.

That said, internet security is a real issue. There are people who convince girls to send their sexually explicit photos or videos, and either publish the photos, starting the internet bullying, or blackmail the girl.

  • I think your initial definition of "internet predators" is far too restrictive -- each of the other examples you cite later are certainly predatory behavior. – Acire Nov 2 '16 at 10:51
  • Join the club. Read carefully. It is not "my" definition. I start the message with words "If by internet predators you mean..." – user31264 Nov 2 '16 at 11:14
  • The OP didn't propose that definition in their question, which is why I don't understand phrasing the answer that way. I simply think it could have been better put. – Acire Nov 2 '16 at 11:15
  • She did not propose ANY definition, so I had no choice but trying to guess what she means. – user31264 Nov 2 '16 at 11:16

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