Why teens aren't scared of online predators...
Why our teens aren’t scared of online predators…
After 10 years interviewing children as a police officer and specialist child interviewer and almost 3 years talking and presenting to young people about online safety and abuse prevention, it is a common occurrence that a young person will disclose unsafe online usage to me.
These disclosures and those that I receive from young people on my social media accounts, make me question why our teens aren’t taking the advice given by police, teachers and online safety educators seriously and why they still willingly engage in unsafe behaviours online?
I hear stories of:
- engaging in online relationships with strangers including other teenagers they’ve never met in real life,
- disclosing personal daily information including their locations,
- sharing nudes and intimate videos,
- using apps like Omegle and Kik where they expect to speak to strangers and see nudity,
- sharing of pornography,
- other sexual and often risky conversations well aware that it isn’t safe and can lead to problems down the track.
I recently asked a group of teens the question, ‘Are you worried about online predators?’
Receiving the replies, ‘not really, I mean they can’t really do anything and I know what to watch out for’,
‘most of us are more worried about what our friends/peers will do with our nudes. I am more worried about them getting shared around school and the bullying that follows than an online stranger having them’,
‘My nudes got leaked when I shared them with someone who I thought liked me that I didn’t know, but it turned out to be someone from school catfishing me and pretending to be someone else. At the time, I didn’t know what to do or how to make it go away and I truly wanted to die’.
Increasingly though, our young people are being targeted, groomed, coerced and exploited into providing self-produced child exploitation material (nudes) without much effort at all by online predators and other teenagers, if the current statistics from the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) are to go by.
Another teen I recently spoke with disclosed their concern for their nudes potentially being shared on an 'exposing' account. For parents who don't know, 'exposing' accounts are a group chat created by teens using anonymous profiles with the specific purpose of sharing the nudes they have in their possession between anyone who joins the group chat.
The aim is to shame and bully anyone who has sent nudes to someone else and is often set up by school year group by the person starting the account. Anyone can join the group and anyone can share nudes or inappropriate photos they have. These groups are often shut down quickly but are easily started again and the same photos are circulated again in a cycle of ongoing abuse.
You’d think with risks like this, our teens would be reluctant to share nudes? Unfortunately, in this digital world, our young people are more likely to share a nude to someone online before they even have their first kiss.
Some tips on how to help your young person/teen:
1. Whilst we should definitely be sharing about the risks of online predators, we need to be having better conversations with our young tweens and teens around the real risks of sharing nudes with ANYONE including discussing the legalities and legislation associated with this from your state or territory.
2. Educate yourself around the social pressures your children are facing and be prepared for them to stuff up and make mistakes. Our teens are often bad judges of character, make bad judgement decisions and can act without a second of thought but they are still kids and learning.
3. Be APPROACHABLE. Most teens and children tell me they can’t talk to their parents about this stuff for fear of having their devices removed or banned. This makes them reluctant to speak up when they really need to.
4. Keep devices out of private areas of the home eg. Bedrooms/bathrooms where your children have an opportunity to take those nudes.
5. Do scenario training with them – when I was a police officer, we practised scenarios before being exposed to them in preparation for them occurring. You can do the same with your child to prepare them for real life scenarios they may be exposed to. Ask the question, ‘What would you do if… you were asked for a nude, sent a nude, sent pornography, had an online stranger friend request you etc’. and find out how they would handle the situation and discuss possible ways they can get help. If they have prior experience even in theory, they will know what to do when they get in that situation.
Kristi McVee is an ex-detective and specialist child interviewer who has written the book Operation KidSafe – a detective’s guide to child abuse prevention to share the knowledge she gained in the Police with parents and caregivers. Available on Amazon or via www.cape-au.com.