Online predators: Tips to protect your kids from unsafe interactions

Posted: 21st July 2023

Numerous social media and online communication websites allows today’s children to communicate with friends and family anywhere in the world.

But the platforms aren’t risk-free, as criminals often use them to target children.

This week, for instance, Volusia sheriff’s detectives arrested a 29-year-old man for twice having sex with a 12-year-old girl. The man used Wink Mobile app to communicate and arrange meetings with the victim, according to detectives.

Wink is a social networking and friendship app for kids 13 and up that has been described as “Tinder for teens.” According to the app’s website, the platform is not intended for dating; instead, it is meant “to provide a fun and safe space for everyone to make friends.”

But using the app means entering a virtual environment where these predators are searching for their next victim, making it especially important for parents to not only monitor their children’s activity online, but also to know how to help them avoid harm.

No matter what kind of threat a child may be facing online, there are steps parents can take to avoid these situations.

How do kids become targets of online predators?

Online predators know kids use online platforms, including social media and even video game platforms, to communicate.

Hiding one’s true identity is common practice in those spaces, even for those whose intentions are good and want to have fun.

But that gives predators a way in to start developing a relationship with their targets.

According to the NWG Network – a U.K.-based organization that helps disseminate information to professionals working on the issue of child exploitation – these offenders turn to grooming and manipulating tactics to achieve their goal.

“The groomer will form a friendship with them and learn about their interests, home, family and friendship groups,” according to the organization. “During this process, the offender tests out a child’s response. It could start subtly and then move into more sexual or coercive conversations. However, the offender could also try to coerce the child more directly. If they’re unsuccessful, they might move onto another child.”

Although some groomers pretend to be younger than they are, not all of them do.

It is also important to remember that they target both boys and girls from across all age ranges regardless of the children’s backgrounds, according to NWG.

What can parents do to protect kids from online sexual harm?

Knowing how a child uses an online platform and openly talking about the risks it may pose can help kids become more aware of the dangers.

“The content a child sees, the people they talk to or the topics they discuss could all contribute to online harm,” according to the organization.

Several of these platforms, for instance, offer parental controls so parents can limit their child’s access in that space. They are often found under “settings” and can “help you protect your children from inappropriate content, online grooming, cyberbullying and other online safety issues.”

Parents should ask their children how they use online platforms, as well as how friendships they develop online are different from those made in person.

What resources are available for local parents?

According to Volusia sheriff’s spokesman Andrew Gant, the office is partnering with the Florida Department of Children & Families to host a series of community forums that will address kids’ online safety.

“We also have the recently opened Family Resource Center which has resources available not just for youth who are arrested, but those who are victims or at risk of threats,” Gant wrote in an email.

The sheriff’s office also provided a list of 113 popular social media and networking apps used by kids that parents should be aware of (which can be found at

Some the apps on the list include:

  • After School – social networking.
  • Among Us – videogame.
  • Clubhouse – social networking.
  • Discord – social networking.
  • Disney+ – video streaming.
  • DOWN – lifestyle
  • Episode – video game.
  • Facebook – social networking.
  • Facebook Messenger Kids – social networking.
  • FriendO – social networking.
  • Google Hangouts – instant messenger
  • Hoop – social networking.
  • iFunny – photo/video sharing
  • Instagram – social networking.
  • Kik – instant messenger.
  • MeetMe – social networking.
  • Omegle – social networking.
  • Periscope – video streaming.
  • Reddit – lifestyle.
  • Snapchat – social networking.
  • Threads – photo/video sharing
  • WhatsApp – instant messenger and photo/video sharing.

Several safety guides are also available at, including sexual abuse prevention curricula intended to prevent molestation, sexual assault, online luring, harassment, sexting, bullying/cyberbullying, identity theft, self-harm and more.

Source: Online predators: Tips to protect your kids from unsafe interactions (

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