Should I worry about my child being blackmailed online?
3 experts and 2 parents have answered
I wouldn't worry, but I'd be very sure you explain to your child (8 years and up) what can happen when sharing personal information in any form, online with someone they don't truly know offline.
My experience is that young children get into this kind of trouble with predators (not the same as a pedofile, btw!), because they divulge too much information on a "friend to friend" basis, which is the trap. Then the perpetrator starts the blackmail process by saying "If you do this ONE thing, I won't forward your emails or chats to your fb friends/teacher/parents etc. I promise. Just do this one thing and I'll delete your info." This is, of course, a lie. But children are scared and want to believe the person. The minute they do this, they're sunk. Because it becomes the one thing the perp WILL share and the hole gets deeper and deeper.
No offense to my colleagues but I don't know of any children who have been victims of this problem who came forward because they knew they could tell their parents everything. Regardless of the relationship you think you have with your child, the shame the child feels for falling into this trap and having shared things like "I think my mum's rubbish sometimes!" or "I hate my best friend today." It's a very easy trap to fall into.
My opinion is, you must be up front and describe the above scenario to the child. The way we teach our children to look both ways before crossing the road, and the fact that we share the consequences of what could happen should they not look both ways, is what we should do about the online world. I don't think the online world is dangerous or scary UNLESS a person of any age doesn't have the knowledge or tools to be cautious and wise.
It's no different from the offline world. We wouldn't drop our children off at Central Park or Hyde Park and say "Ok, now, behave, and be safe." We'd be sure we know why, who, what, etc. and we'd have already taught them about offline safety. We can't leave young people to the online world with no knowledge or tools.
Chief Community & Safety Officer, Mind Candy/Moshi Monsters
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I completely agree with the sound advice given above and would like to add that children are also blackmailed online by other children that they know in their communities. So, as well as teaching our children not to share personal information with a stranger, we must also make them aware of the risk that things that they share online could be used against them.
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Last week the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) released details of research that shows children as young as eight have been forced into performing sexual acts on webcam, with an increasing number of sexual abusers using blackmail to achieve their aims. Over the last two years, CEOP have been involved in 12 investigations of this type, and have identified 424 children as victims of this form of abuse, 184 of which lived in the UK.
This is a tiny percentage of a generation that seemingly spend their entire lives online, so we need to keep some perspective about the very small risk to children. Nonetheless, it is clear the harm that can occur when a child is abused in this way can have tragic consequences. In some of the most extreme cases that CEOP were involved with, children have seriously self-harmed and, tragically, seven of the victims took their own lives.
Any parent would be worried about the possibility of their child being blackmailed online in this way, but there are ways to protect your family without having to unplug the router and confiscate their laptops.
Communication is the key, and talking to your child about safer online behaviour as soon as they start to use the internet is a must. Ask them how they feel about other people their age sharing photos of themselves online, and talk to them about what is and isn’t appropriate online behaviour.
Most importantly, make it clear that they can always tell you if they get into trouble online. The power that these abusers have over children is broken the moment a child has the courage to tell an adult they trust. In most cases the blackmail threats are hollow; an online predator is very unlikely to share images which will make it easier for parents to report them, or for the police to track them.
If you’re ever worried about someone contacting your child online, report it immediately to CEOP.
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Worry? No more than you should worry about a toddler burning themselves on a fire, or a four year old being knocked down or abducted from the street. If you take appropriate precautions, you minimise the risk of bad things happening and so don't need to worry.
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Most of the children are addicted to online chatting. In my opinion the parents should watch their children and restrict them with a friendly manner. According to paper writing service, most of the children scared to share anything with their parents. So, the parents should remove that feeling from their children to create friendly nature with them.