What can you do to minimize the chances of an exploiter victimizing your teen?

Personal safety for teens and for everyone is no longer restricted to physical and emotional protection in everyday places like school, sports, social events, and the home.

The Internet is part of our life, but it can also be a dangerous place. Personal information can get into the hands of exploiters just waiting for a victim. There are faceless, dangerous people lurking in cyberspace, trying to connect with teens who blog, chat, or message by posing as peers, showing a personal interest and engaging them in conversation about supposedly common interests. They target their victims and can slowly lead them into situations of physical danger and sexual exploitation.

Warn your teen of the potential dangers of connecting with people on the Internet who they can't verify as friends or acquaintances. Lots of people lie about themselves and try to befriend teens who are eager for new social contacts and are willing to cooperate. Encourage your teen to limit the access to their personal pages. Teach them not to post personal information that can travel way beyond their wildest dreams. There is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet, and there are experienced and clever exploiters who can put clues together to figure out where people live and how to contact them personally. They may send online messages that can lure and manipulate curious, innocent teens.

Talk with your teens about online dangers; make sure they know how to stay safe and protect themselves from being victimized. Any post can get into the wrong hands if your teenagers don't practice safety and protection measures. Let them know that you are there to listen and react immediately if they encounter anything that makes them feel threatened or uncomfortable.

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