The Internet is one of mankind’s greatest inventions. Like money, its actually become something of a ‘necessary evil’ in our lives, being used for instant communication, creating marketplaces and businesses, and even finding that special someone you want in your life.
Yes, Internet dating is quite the thing now. Many will tell you that its the greatest thing since sliced bread, but there are risks to it. There are Internet Predators out there who not only feed on emotionally stressed out youths, but lonely love seekers as well.
What is an Internet Predator? According to Wikipedia, an Internet Predator A.K.A. Online Predator is an adult Internet user who essentially tries to lure people into offline, physical contact in order to exploit them, whether that exploitation be sexual, child labor, human trafficking, etc. They’re a great danger to youths and adults alike, so how are they to be avoided? Well, the greatest safety on the Internet is to be a knowledgeable user, so you must know your enemy in order to combat or avoid them.
Firstly, how can you tell if someone you’re talking to online is an Internet Predator? You can’t at first. At first they’ll talk just like anyone else. The true test is the test of time, the first three months being very crucial. Do they seem too good to be true? Do they seem to enjoy a fast relationship? Do they ask for personal information, such as your phone number, real name, address or even the town where you live? These are all huge tip offs that you’re probably communicating with an Internet predator.
Another red flag is that he/she might be offline for a few days without really giving a reason. Oftentimes Internet Predators don’t deal with only one target at a time. Some are what we’ll call “Multitaskers”, who might groom several targets at a time. Those few days they’re offline are days whereas they may be compromising an innocent soul… like you. Once might honestly be legitimate, like when my boyfriend went to visit his family for a week. Its when these times multiply that you can pretty safely say its the behavior of an Internet Predator.
An Internet Predator will try to reel in his victims slowly but surely by first getting them to lower their defenses. Their main prey are the emotionally distressed and the lonely: easy targets. Their first move is to act comforting, then to talk like, “Oh, we have so much in common!”. Congratulations, that person has been caught in a weak moment and thus thinks they can ‘trust this new friend who comforted them through hard times’. The most common targets here are rebellious teenage girls who feel they have no privacy and thus oftentimes fight with their parents. Once the defenses are down and the target is lured into a false sense of security, the Predator will begin asking him/her for personal information. Most of the time, the trusting target will give this information readily. Next comes the offline meeting, and then its usually all over.
Now that you know how to spot Internet Predators, how can you avoid them and what do you do when you run into one? Is it EVER safe to meet an Internet Friend offline? Well let’s see, you can avoid Internet Predators by listening carefully to how those you communicate with online talk. Do their stories change over time? Do they act too good to be true?How do they act when you disagree with them? If you know them from an online community, what do his/her friends say about him/her? Do their stories about this person match up or do they differ on certain points? These can be huge tip offs about the person you’re talking to on the Internet.
What do you do if you run into an Internet Predator? First off you ignore him/her on your Instant Messenger list, E-Mail, or wherever you’re communicating. Next you need to report them. Most sites can track users via IP, and with enough tip offs and complaints of an individual, he/she will be stopped one way or another.
Is it ever safe to meet an Internet Friend offline? Absolutely! As long as its done right! Never meet someone you talk to online within the first year at LEAST. That’s just an open invitation for trouble. Only meet them in public places and never go off alone with them. Most importantly however, never EVER meet offline with someone who matches the criteria of an Internet Predator.
Keep all I’ve said in mind and I’m sure you’ll have a good, safe time on the internet! Bye! God Bless!