Chukwuemeka Fred Agbata Jnr. (CFA)
Technology has a way of both simplifying and amplifying what would usually be a daunting task, thereby making it easier, whether good or bad. This is simply the situation with child molesters who are finding it much easier to search for their victims online. Let me point out that in my opinion, anyone who engages in any act targeted at molesting a minor should be locked up for life. That said, the Internet, as it is structured today, is making the task of paedophiles much easier and that is indeed a sad reality.
A number of apps have already been released by these evil folks and many others are on the way, specifically targeted at finding the next child victim to molest. In some cases, they exploit the weaknesses of apps designed to be fun; an example is an app called Musical.ly, which allows users to upload short video clips of themselves dancing and singing to songs they love. However, kids who use this app are being targeted by paedophiles who try to deceive them into sending naked photos of themselves instead, plus other strategies some parents have reported.
This piece is simply a clarion call for parents to be vigilant since it is now more or less a norm to be connected to the Internet. I am not advocating that parents should not give these items to their kids but they have to watch it because non-supervision can be counter-productive and might even affect their school performance negatively as devices can be loaded with a lot of gaming apps to which these kids might become addicted to.
Beside this, the greatest threat is that kids connected to the Internet without supervision risk encountering paedophiles online. These callous individuals are ever ready to lure your child online using various strategies and take advantage of him/her, thus, putting your child in serious danger. The unfortunate victim may be kidnapped, robbed, defiled, etc. This is because young minds may not easily discern when or who to divulge details about themselves as well as members of their family. My intention basically is to create awareness about this matter, so that parents and guardians can be on the lookout and not assume all is well.
Let me stress that as a parent or guardian, you need to know some of the tricks and strategies used by these paedophiles to get at children so that it will be easier for you to know how to take precautions. Some of these include posting some of the child’s photos online, posting flattering words about the child on social media to gain the child’s attention and confidence, in some cases spreading lies and rumours, impersonating the child into acceptance by revealing fake information etc. In fact, it gets to a stage where the child predator starts to send threatening messages to bring the child to submission once he/she believes enough information to blackmail the child has been gathered. This usually takes a while to occur, but the end is usually catastrophic, hence, parents must make it a point of duty to monitor what their children do online. The reality is that each time your child goes online unsupervised, he or she is exposed to people they do not know, just as they are at the mercy of rapists, kidnappers, etc., when they are left to roam about unguarded in the real world.
Online paedophiles can, however, be deadlier in the sense that although not physically present with the child, they are closer to their target, the child, who can easily be reached anytime online at the touch of a button. A child might even be a victim for a long time without anyone knowing!
You should, as a parent, teach your child some basic morals at home. These morals will always be at the back of your child’s mind when he/she is online. The Internet is also a world of its own and the basic morals, rules and regulations that we teach our children on how to stay safe in the real world also apply in the world of Internet – it could be as basic as: “do not talk to strangers.”
Parents should take care of their children, be their best friends and be approachable instead of delegating to house helps who may not care about what happens to the child. Secure and monitor their devices through the use of certain snooping apps that will let you know what they are up to online while also blocking inappropriate sites.
Watch out for any changes in your child’s demeanour, especially, if the child has unlimited access to the Internet at home or school and he/she has suddenly become a recluse. Also, get into the world of your children by doing a bit of what your children do online, such as playing games with them to understand the virtual environment where they invest good quality time. Finally, advise your children not to post or share anything online that you as their parents will not be proud of; to avoid toying with their future as, whatever they post online is actually permanent!
In conclusion, the Internet can either be a blessing or curse, the choice is ours to make. However, if we want it to be a blessing, then there are certain realities we cannot run away from and one is thinking that a child can wander freely on the Internet without certain consequences. Once again, as parents and guardians, be on the guard as online criminality is on the rise!
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