How can we prevent our children from being sexually abused online?
We already know how difficult it is for children to talk about being sexually abused, whether by a man or woman or by another child. When sexually abusive behavior occurs online, some children may not even realize they are being exploited; and those who do may not tell, especially if they realize they have broken a safety rule or believe their Internet privileges may be taken away. This clearly adds another barrier to children feeling able to let someone know if they are worried about their friendships online or someone’s behavior towards them. Talk frequently and honestly with your kids about experiences they may be experimenting with online, and learn the warning signs in children who may be struggling.
Some of these behaviors may be part of growing up or caused by other factors in a child’s life. If you are worried, recognize that your child may be frightened, too. Talk to someone you trust, or seek the support of a professional.
Signs that a child or young person may be the target of sexual abuse online include:
- Spending increasing amounts of time on the internet.
- Becoming increasingly secretive – particularly around their use of the new technology.
- Shutting the door and hiding what they have on screen when someone enters the room.
- Not being able to talk openly about their activity online.
- Becoming more possessive of their cell phone and concerned if someone else picks it up or wants to look at it.
- Agitated behavior when answering their phone and needing to take calls in private.
- Developing a pattern of leaving the family home for periods of time with no explanation about where they are going.
- Vague talk of a new friend but offering no further information.
- Spending increasing amounts of time talking secretly with the new friend online.
- Not wanting to be alone with a particular adult or young person.
- Sudden, unexplained personality changes and mood swings.
- Outbursts of anger and irritation.
- Self harming activities.
Adapted with permission from Stop It Now! UK & Ireland, The Internet and Children – What’s the Problem,www.stopitnow.org.uk
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- Recognizing Warning Signs
- Definitions of Child Sexual Abuse
- How Abuse Happens
- Understanding Sexual Behavior in Kids
- Warning Signs in Children and Adults
- Warning Signs of Abuse in Children (Behavorial and Physical)
- Signs an Adult May Be At-Risk to Harm a Child
- Behaviors to Watch Out for When Adults are with Children
- How Can I Tell if My Child Has Been Sexually Abused?
- Warning Signs a Young Person May Be a Target of Online Sexual Abuse
- Warning Signs of Someone's Dangerous or Illegal Online Activity
- Prevention and Safety
- Keys to Preventing Sexual Abuse of Children
- Creating a Plan for Safety
- Considering Filing Reports
- Talking about It
- Finding the Courage to Speak Up
- Speaking to Someone with a Sexual Behavior Problem
- When a Child Tells About Sexual Abuse
- How Should I Respond to the Child?
- What Should I Do After a Child Tells?
- How Can I Better Understand What My Child is Going Through?
- Possible Reactions of Non-Offending Parents and Caring Adults
- Is the Child Telling Me the Truth?
- What Might the Person Who Has Offended be Thinking or Feeling after a Disclosure?
- Recovery and Therapy
- For Children and Adults Who Have Been Abused
- For Those At-Risk to Abuse Others or Who Have Offended
- For Parents and Caregivers
- Reporting and Legal Issues
- Filing Reports
- Child Protective Services and Police
- Legal Issues