Children are often told by their parents never to talk to strangers, or accept lifts from people they did not know. Nowadays, Internet communication makes it possible to become acquainted with someone while knowing very little about their identity and intentions. This can be misused to lure young people into inappropriate or dangerous relationships. The people who engage in such behaviour are known as online predators. The process of befriending a young person online is known as grooming.
Online predators normally target young people. Adolescents can be particularly vulnerable as they are going through a period of change where they are moving beyond parental control and trying to establish new relationships. However, online predators can also target adults with the aim of exploiting them financially.
Predators normally make contact with potential victims through chat rooms, instant messaging, e-mail or social networking sites. They may assume a false identity to appear more attractive to their targets. For example, if a chat room is only normally used by children, an online predator may pretend to be a child in order to participate.
This YouTube video describes how online predators operate.
It is important to tell children about online predators. Make sure that you know what to do if you suspect that your child is talking to them over the Internet. Make use of the parental control, security and privacy settings of your browser software. Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) can also help you secure your computer.
However, only you can stop people accessing your personal information. Do not supply it unless you know who you are really talking to. This also applies when using Instant Messaging or sending texts from your mobile phone.