The Queensland Police force has put together some tips on what to look out for if you think your child or a young person you know has been approached by an online predator.

You find pornography on your child’s computer.
Child sex offenders sometimes use pornography as a way of opening sexual discussion. It may also be used to show the child that sex between children and adults is acceptable and normal.

Your child is receiving phone calls from people you don’t know or is calling numbers you don’t recognise.
It is very common for a child sex offender to attempt to speak directly to a child they have met online; this is often to set up actual meetings. While your child may not give out your home phone number, the sex offender will NOT hesitate to give out theirs. If you do not have a silent number and your child calls, the offender can easily obtain your number using the ‘caller ID’ function on their telephone.

Your child is spending excessive amounts of time on the internet.
The longer your child is online, the higher the likelihood that they will be improperly approached, or exposed to sexually explicit material.

Young people are at greatest risk from online sexual predators in the evening, during weekends and on school holidays. Predators can be online for up to 16 hours at a time and visitors to chat rooms could be from anywhere in the world, not just Australia.

When you enter the room your child changes the screen or turns the computer off.
If your child is engaged in unsuitable conversation or is looking at pornographic images it is likely that they will attempt to hide this from you.

Your child is receiving gifts or mail from people you don’t know.
Child sex offenders use many strategies to gain the confidence and trust of a child. Predators have been known to gradually seduce children through the use of attention, affection and gifts.

Your child is becoming withdrawn or displaying irregular personality characteristics.
Child sex offenders are skilled at gaining the confidence of children, providing your child with a sympathetic and comforting ear, and turning insignificant family problems into major issues in order to gain the affection of your child. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual ill-treatment.

With little or no parental supervision and a willing child, it is easier for predators to form strong relationships with children online.

How to help protect your child on the Internet

  • Having direct and open communication with your child, taking the time to sit down with them and discussing their use of the internet is the most important step to protecting them online. Having open lines of communication allows your child to talk to you freely and approach you when something is wrong.
  • Be aware of the programs and files on your computer. If you don’t feel you have the knowledge or technical ability to do this, ask a friend, colleague or qualified technician.
  • Spend time exploring the internet with your children, and let them teach you about their favourite web sites, including the social networking and instant messaging sites they use.
  • Take the time to view your child’s online profile and check for information that may be unsafe, including email addresses, information about their membership of any other networking sites, unacceptable photos or any other information of concern.
  • Keep the computer in a room the whole family accesses, not in your child’s bedroom. Opportunities for exploitation by a sexual predator are limited if the computer monitor is visible to all members of the family.
  • Taskforce Argos has developed the “Family Internet Safety Agreement”, a contract you agree upon with your child. The document sets out agreed rules of internet use with your child and is available at the Queensland Police Service website.
  • Sit down with your family and develop your own set of guidelines to help protect your child on the internet.
  • Think about installing filtering and/or computer blocking software provided by your internet service provider. Netalert (a Government run organisation) provides information on a number of commercially available products.
  • Ensure you are able to access your child’s email and randomly check its contents. Remember they may also be a member of free email accounts other than the one provided by your internet service provider.
  • Think about approaching your telephone service provider to discuss options they may be able to provide to ensure your privacy and security.
  • It is important to remember your child may be accessing the internet from other locations. Enquire with your child’s school, public library or anywhere you believe your child uses the internet to ascertain what safety measures they have in place.

It is important to make young people aware that they:

  1. Do not send pictures of themselves to someone they don’t know and never place a full profile and picture of themselves anywhere on the internet
  2. Never give out personal information including their name, home address, phone number or school, and
  3. Never arrange a face to face meeting with someone they have only engaged with on the internet.

If any of the following situations occur, you should immediately contact your local police station:
Your child has received child exploitation material.
Your child has been sexually solicited.
Your child has received sexually explicit images.

If any of these scenarios occur, keep your computer turned off in order to preserve evidence.

For further information on how to enjoy the internet safely visit:
Australian Communications and Media Authority or

Australian Internet Safety Advisory Board

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha
Source: Queensland Police