The Internet has helped to enrich our lives in many ways, however, it has also provided child predators with a new way to reach potential victims and commit crimes.
61% percent of 13-17 year olds have a personal profile on a social networking site and half have also posted pictures of themselves. Teen girls are particularly at risk – of 1 in 7 youth who received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet, 70% were girls.
The Ad Council launched their Online Sexual Exploitation PSA campaign to make teen girls aware of the potential dangers of sharing and posting personal information online and of communicating with unfamiliar people, to help reduce their risk of sexual victimization and abduction. The goal of the campaign is to make teenage girls “Think Before You Post,” and as with the previous two years, ask viewers and listeners to visit www.cybertipline.com , to get tips on how to prevent, detect, and report suspicious online behavior.
The campaign also includes two previous rounds of PSAs. The first round, which launched in May 2004, targeted parents and guardians to raise awareness of the potential dangers online and to educate them about what they could do to protect their children. The creative encouraged them to “Help Delete Online Predators”. The second round, which launched the following year, targeted teens in an effort to warn them of the dangers of forming “blind” relationships online and used the tagline, “Don’t Believe the Type.”
An interactive, fast-paced game, ID the Creep  , was also created to mimic communications that teens might encounter online in chat rooms, IM, or emails. Players are challenged to look for clues in messages from people online that might indicate a certain person might not be friendly. As in the real world, sometimes the clues are obvious and sometimes they are subtle. The game creates an extremely relevant, but safer environment for teens to become more aware of potential dangers online.
And although you might want to give your teen more freedom, make sure that some rules are mutually understood, in order to prevent your teen from becoming an online sexual exploitation victim.
- Make sure your child’s computer is placed in a family area.
- Make sure your child’s IM screen name doesn’t reveal any identifying information about a child especially things like a name, age, location, year of birth, school name, and year of graduation, because Internet predators often use screen names to select their potential targets.
- If you don’t know how to work a computer, have your child show you how. Tell them to show you which sites are some good informational sites, and where they surf the web.
- Ask your child if they have pictures on their myspace or facebook. You can either tell your child to remove all pictures and personal information (address, school, age, etc.) or have them set their account to private. For teens, setting their account to private will allow them to keep their web page without soliciting personal information. If set to private, only their friends can see their profile. Also make sure that people on their friends list, are only friends they have met and are close with.