What are Signs that Your Child May be Participating in an Inappropriate Internet Relationship?

Loving parents always hope that they have given their children enough love, attention, and self-confidence that their children will be safe from inappropriate Internet relationships. 

Kids and Inappropriate Internet RelationshipsMuch as we love our kids, however, there are always going to be children who are vulnerable to the inappropriate attention of others, and the Internet has simply made more children vulnerable.

Sometimes children simply become addicted to the Internet itself, while not being in an inappropriate relationship.  While this is bad enough, having your child vulnerable to predators is much, much worse.

Here are some of the signs to be aware of.  They don’t necessarily mean your child is in an inappropriate Internet relationship, but they are warning signs nonetheless.

  • Is your child unusually secretive about what they are doing online?  If your child doesn’t want to let you see what they are doing or they immediately flip to another screen when you enter the room, sit down with them and ask them what they’re doing.  If they say “nothing”, pursue it. 
  • Is your child receiving emails, mail, packages or phone calls from someone you don’t know?  Parents need to know who their children’s friends are.  You can always call the number yourself or block the email address.  The US Postal Service, your ISP, and the local police can help you if you are concerned your child is being stalked.
  • Is your child making plans to meet someone they’ve met online? This obviously can be tricky to discover, as most children will sneak around to do this.  Make sure you’ve established good relationships with your children’s friends so that they feel comfortable talking with you.  Just because your child wants to meet someone they’ve met online doesn’t mean their friends are comfortable with it. 

Even more important, make sure your child feels comfortable talking with you.  Let them know that, if they’ve made a new friend online, you would be willing to have them over but you need to talk with this friend’s parents to make sure it’s OK with them, too.  If your child starts making excuses, it’s time for a talk.

As a parent, you have responsibilities.  Don’t assume a problem will go away.  Talk openly with your children about your suspicions. Tell your children about the dangers of on-line predators.  Consider showing older children the local online sex offender registry, particularly those offenders within a few miles radius of where you live.   The photos alone may be enough to make your point.  But talk with them.

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