What Are The Signs?
Your Child Spends Large Amounts of time Online, Especially at Night
Most children that fall victim to computer-sex offenders spend large amounts of time online, particularly in chat rooms. They may go online after dinner and on the weekends. They may be latchkey kids whose parents have told them to stay at home after school. They go online to chat with friends, make new friends, pass time, and sometimes look for sexually explicit information. While much of the knowledge and experience gained may be valuable, parents should consider monitoring the amount of time spent online.
Children online are at the greatest risk during the evening hours. While offenders are online around the clock, most work during the day and spend their evenings online trying to locate and lure children or seeking pornography.
You Find Pornography on Your Child's Computer
Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Sex offenders often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is "normal." Parents should be conscious of the fact that a child may hide the pornographic files on diskettes from them. This may be especially true if the computer is used by other family members.
Your Child Receives Phone Calls From Men You Don't Know or is Making Call to Numbers You Don't Recognize
While talking to a child victim online is a thrill for a computer-sex offender, it can be very cumbersome. Most want to talk to the children on the telephone. They often engage in "phone sex" with the children and often seek to set up an actual meeting for real sex.
While a child may be hesitant to give out his/her home phone number, the computer-sex offenders will give out theirs. With Caller ID, they can readily find out the child's phone number. Some computer-sex offenders have even obtained toll-free 800 numbers, so that their potential victims can call them without their parents finding out. Others will tell the child to call collect. Both of these methods result in the computer-sex offender being able to find out the child's phone number.
Your Child Receives Mail, Gifts, or Packages From Someone You Don't Know
As part of the seduction process, it is common for offenders to send letters, photographs, and all manner of gifts to their potential victims. Computer-sex offenders have even sent plane tickets in order for the child to travel across the country to meet them.
Your Child Turns Off the Computer Monitor or Quickly Changes the Screen on the Monitor When You Come In
A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.
Your Child Becomes Withdrawn From the Family
Computer-sex offenders will work very hard at driving a wedge between a child and their family or at exploiting their relationship. They will accentuate any minor problems at home that the child might have. Children may also become withdrawn after sexual victimization.
Your Child is Using an Online Account Belonging to Someone Else
Even if you don't subscribe to an online service or internet service, your child may meet an offender while online at a friend's house or the library. Most computers come preloaded with online and/or internet software. Computer-sex offenders will sometimes provide potential victims with a computer account for communications with them.