Despite its innumerable advantages, technology has its dark side as well. The Internet is a breeding ground for pedophiles. Sexual exploitation can happen to any child, anywhere, through cell phones and over the Internet. Its long-term effects are devastating, not just for the child alone, but for his loved ones as well.
Banning a child’s access to the Internet is certainly not the solution to this nightmare and is likely to have dire consequences. The solution lies in parents and schools working together to protect children from the pedophiles online.
The following are some pragmatic steps parents and schoolteachers can take to protect children from online sexual exploitation:
Parents should discuss openly with their children about sexual exploitation. Educate them on how it can happen through the Internet and cell phones. Constantly assure them that it is okay to talk to you about any concerns they may have regarding sexual exploitation.
Schools need to educate children about unhealthy relationships, sexual exploitative situations, and how to keep themselves safe online. In addition, teachers need to teach students on how to recognize risks and where to get help when needed.
Education is key to helping children make informed decisions in their personal lives to protect themselves from sexual exploitation.
Parents should monitor the Internet activity of their children. They should make their children understand the significance of sharing their passwords with them.
Certain technological tools restrict access to certain sites. Activate those to restrict your child from visiting risky sites and chat rooms. Most importantly, make your children understand the dreadful consequences of revealing their personal information online, chatting, or meeting with strangers.
Ensure your child does not send their personal pictures to any random person online. Be vigilant and check their privacy settings on social networking sites, such as Facebook.
Set certain rules and impose limits on the use of technology. Decide which sites your child may visit and how much time you are comfortable with them being online. You could allow your children to go online during the weekend and not during weekdays.
Discuss with your children the consequences of breaking house rules. Encourage them to engage in outdoor activities, rather than spending their entire day on the Internet.
A child should know that it is their right to speak up if they are being exploited online. They should not feel uncomfortable saying “no” to others, even to their extended family members.
Lastly, nobody should turn a blind eye to child sexual exploitation. A majority of the cases of online sexual exploitation go unreported due to the humiliation and embarrassment felt by the victim and his or her family. Sexual exploitation, be it online or not, is a serious crime, and its perpetrators deserve to be punished.
To read more about safeguarding your children from online sexual exploitation, please visit STAR Guides Wilderness, a specialized treatment center for all sorts of addictions.
Matt is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been working in the field of youth treatment and psychotherapy since 1995. He did his undergraduate work at BYU and earned his M.S.W. at the University of Utah. He has worked in a variety of treatment setting in his career ranging from wilderness therapy and residential treatment to outpatient treatment and state government.