The arrest and charging of a NSW teacher for engaging in sexually explicit conversations with a 14 year old girl in the USA has again brought to light the dangers of children ‘chatting’ to strangers online.  Online predators are experts at internet grooming and luring young people into compromising situations that they are not able to handle.

“We urge anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation to report the matter to police immediately,” Sex Crimes Squad Commander Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec said. “The more information we have from the public, the better equipped we are to investigate and hinder the activities of online predators.”

Tips on how to protect children online

  1. Talk to your child about sexual victimization/exploitation and potential online danger.
  2. Spend time with your children online; find out what sites they visit and who they are talking to.
  3. Keep the computer in a common room in the house. It should never be in a child’s bedroom.
  4. Install and use parental controls and blocking software to reduce access to potentially dangerous sites or areas of the internet.
  5. Make sure you have access to your child’s online account and occasionally check their emails.
  6. Think of all the places your child can access online services and as far as possible find out what computer safeguards are used by your child’s school, the public library, and at the homes of your child’s friends.
  7. Talk to the parents of your children’s friends so you are all aware of the potential dangers of online chatting and can watch out for each other’s children when they are visiting.
  8. If your child is approached by someone it is important to remember that they are the victim and were not mature enough to handle the situation.
  9. Keep a close eye on your child’s access to all types of live electronic communications (i.e., chat rooms, instant messages, Internet Relay Chat, etc.).

Tell young people
Never ever arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they have talked to online.
Never ever post pictures of themselves onto the Internet or send them to someone they do not personally know.
Never ever give out identifying information such as their name, home address, school name, or telephone number.

Watch out for signs of online risk

  • Is your child spending long hours online, especially at night or do they change the screen as soon as you come into the room?
  • Does your child get calls from ‘friends’ that you don’t know, or do they make long distance call to numbers you don’t recognize?
  • Has your child received a gift or package through the mail from someone you don’t know?
  • Has your child become withdrawn from the family and their usual circle of friends?

Writer Helen Splarn. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.
Source: Sydney Morning Herald