That’s the name of the workshop a group of us attended yesterday. It was fairly informative, the speaker was excellent and I took random little notes throughout so I could remember some stats and some recommendations. This is a sampling of some of the things I learned and / or were suggested throughout.
Rob Nickels was the presenter and he is a former OPP officer who used to work undercover in the child pornography unit. Child exploitation is a big deal and the internet is making it really easy for some of these folks to find and get access to victims (as well as connect with each other). You know how the internet lets different groups find and support each other (such as groups for people with different illnesses will form support groups), it also allows people who are into child pornography and sexual abuse to find and support each other. We watched Rob join a support group for guys who like to sexually abuse their daughters, make a friend online, meet him, get coached on how to sexually assault his little girls and get away with it as part of a taping he did for the Dr. Phil show. Unreal the amount of chat rooms dedicated to sexual offending behaviors, especially with children. He said at one point that the guess is that there are over 750,000 sexual predators online at any given time. It’s kind of scary and it’s not intended to scare people into getting off-line. It’s intended to teach people the need to be safe and how to do it.
There is far too much information to get it all down in one post so this will be split up into a series of posts. First though, we’re going to talk about sexual predators and kids.
In his work undercover, Rob noticed a very important point. The vast majority of child and teenage victims were getting online in a private location, such as a bedroom. It’s much more difficult for kids to get sucked into behaviours that will put them at risk if they’re online in a “public” location (such as the dining room or living room or family room). This is really important because I know a lot of parents struggle with this. The reality is, the chances of your kid getting into a mess online seems to be significantly higher if they have internet access in their bedrooms.
Most of the predators are not creepy guys hovering in parks. They’re just your average guy, clean-cut, employed, not even a parking ticket. Our image of sexual predators and the ogre type of presentation we immediately think of is not actually accurate. Rob talked about judges, lawyers, doctors, police officers, business men and so on, that he met online. Our own work with Victim Services supports this.
Building a relationship online is easier than it is in person. This seems to happen for two reasons. One, you only have the written word to go by (no nonverbal communication that might set off ‘warning bells’) and two, sexual predators do their homework. They search profiles and records and learn that “Sally” is on the volleyball team, likes horses and her favourite musician is Katy Perry. A predator will easily initiate contact either directly or through a friend of a friend and then mention first that they are on the volleyball team or that they used to ride horses or whatever. Google makes this really easy when all you have to do is search volleyball and voila, all the info you need to make it sound like you know what you’re talking about. It’s a super easy and super effective technique.
A predator will easily and gladly spend 9 months building a rapport with a potential victim. Time and patience are not a problem. If it takes that long before they can convince the victim to meet with them, so be it. It’s part of the whole process.
(this stat is a few years old so it may very well be higher nowadays – especially with the prevalence of smart phones) – 20% of grade 4 students have their own internet connection. Think about that in relation to the 750,000 predators online…
This is not safe.
It’s important to know that facebook will randomly change your settings from private to public without notifying you. Please double-check your settings all the time and make sure they’re private.
40% of youth say they have met someone in person that they first met online. 50% gave some or all of the information asked for to a virtual stranger that they have met online.
A couple of final points, it’s very easy for someone to remotely activate your webcam without your knowledge or permission if they want to. How creepy is that? Seriously, the little webcam on my laptop seems almost sinister now. If you put tape across it, it will effectively block someone’s ability to watch you through your computer.
In future posts, we’ll talk about cell phones (you’ll never look at a phone the same way again…) and online stalking related issues.
For more information, go to http://www.cyber-safety.com/ .