No matter how much you warn and educate your child, he or she is always at risk for encountering a sexual predator. These criminals are skilled at deceiving and manipulating young children, teens, and even parents into thinking that they are trustworthy. Here is a look at some of the tactics sex offenders are using today to get close to your children:
1. Social Media and the Internet
When you were growing up, your parents usually only had to worry about sex offenders in your neighborhood, but these days the Internet adds a whole new way for predators from all over the world to contact your child. Unfortunately, it is not just social media websites that you must worry about. A 2008 study from the University of New Hampshire suggested that sex offenders are more likely to use online spaces like chat-rooms instead of sites like Facebook.
As a parent, the best thing to do is monitor your child’s online activity. Keep the computer in a central place in the home, and only allow your child access to social media that you can access, too. If your child has a phone, check it from time to time to ensure they are not receiving calls, texts, or other forms of communication from people you do not know.
2. Gifts and Compliments
You might think of a sex offender as someone who looks and acts like someone your child might be scared to hang around, but the truth is many of them look like ordinary people. They use this to their advantage in order to gain your child’s trust. They also go to great lengths to make your child feel special. The predator may compliment your child often or bring him or her gifts. For teens and older children who are going through emotional hardships and hormonal changes, the predator may even appear as if he or she is a good friend or listener who understands the child better than parents or schoolmates do. This often leads to children isolating themselves from other people, including you.
Kids learn from an early age not to talk to strangers, and it is important to reinforce this idea throughout their entire childhood. Stay interested in your child’s life as he or she gets older, and ask questions about who he or she hangs around with. If they ever talk about spending time with older people you do not know, you need to investigate further.
3. Gaining the Family’s Trust
You think you know what’s best for your child, but some sex offenders are so skilled at what they do, they might even pull one over on you. Again, predators will present themselves as ordinary citizens who just want to befriend you and your child. They turn on the charm whenever they are around the child’s parents, siblings, and friends, so that no one will tell the child he or she should not be around the predator.
The best way to look out for signs of sexual abuse from people close to your family is to pay attention to how they interact with your children. Do they tend to stick around to help with bathing or bedtimes or spend more time with your kids than they do you and other adults? Do they hug or kiss your child more than the average person or do they make jokes that are sexual in nature around your child? This type of behavior may start out as something innocent, but it eventually transcends into molestation or rape.
4. Making Threats
Once sexual abuse starts, a predator may begin threatening your child in order to keep it a secret. The person might tell the child that something bad will happen if he or she tells their parents or a teacher. The person might convince the child that he or she or even their parents will end up in jail. The predator may even threaten to do hurt or kill the child if he or she tells another adult.
Children who are abused and threatened often feel ashamed or scared, as if the abuse is their own fault. If you notice unusual behavior in your child, especially after he or she is around certain people, talk to the child about it. If the child will not share what is going on, but you still suspect something, trust your instinct. In the end, it may all be a misunderstanding, but it is worth your child’s health and safety to find out.
5. Lying to the Child
Most younger children may not understand what is happening when a sex offender does something inappropriate. In this case, the predator may take advantage of the child’s ignorance. He or she may convince them that it’s a natural part of life or something everyone does.
Again, if you suspect someone is abusing your child, trust your instinct. Cut off contact from the person and contact the police. Pay close attention to the people your children are around at school, in parks, and in other public places. If your child has questions about sex, answer them honestly, and ask what prompted their curiosity.
Technology is here to help you protect your family
One of the best ways to keep your family safe is to keep informed on the identity and whereabouts of sex offenders in your neighborhood. The recently launched KidsLiveSafe app provides you with live up-to-date maps showing you the exact location (and bio) of all sexual predators living near you. It can also send you notifications when new sex offenders move nearby. The app also has features like amber alert warnings, tornado warnings and much more. You can take advantage of a 30 day trial for only $1 by clicking here.