What to Do When a Child Predator Contacts Your Child
You’ve installed monitoring software on all of your child’s devices. You don’t allow screens in the bedroom. You’re careful about where you let your kids hang out online. But somehow, your child still gets contacted by a child predator. What do you do now?
With the dangers of child predators on the internet, many parents have questions about what to do when they realize their child has been communicating with a predator. We recently held a Virtual Town Hall to discuss online safety and this was a question our expert guests answered. If you find that your child has been contacted by a predator, here is exactly what you should do.
3 STEPS TO TAKE WHEN A CHILD PREDATOR CONTACTS YOUR CHILD
1. Document everything. Screenshot the evidence of the conversations between your child and the predator. Make sure that you capture the username and time stamps of the conversation and what was said. Do not report the predator’s account to the social media or other platform just yet (we’ll do that in step #3).
Many parents who find themselves in this heartbreaking situation ask if by documenting with screenshots they would be considered to be in possession of child sexual abuse materials and subject to prosecution. The answer to that is “No.” You will not be prosecuted for screenshotting images that get turned over to law enforcement.
2. Get help & contact law enforcement. Don’t try to handle this on your own. Local law enforcement agencies are important partners in addressing the issue of child predators and keeping your kids safe. Contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC)’s Cyber Tip Line and submit a report with your evidence. NCMEC will review your tip and will work to find a potential location for the incident reported so that it may be made available to the appropriate law enforcement agency for investigation. They will know what to do and what needs to happen to make sure everyone stays safe.
3. Follow law enforcement instructions to block and report to online platform. Once you’re in contact with law enforcement via NCMEC, follow their guidance on how and when to report to social media or other online platform. This is important because when you make a report to the online platform, the predator’s account will get shut down, and inadvertently alert them that they have been found out. This then leads to the predator avoiding detection, creating a new account and continuing to abuse more children. Ensure that you block and report only after law enforcement gives the green light to do so. You need to make sure that they have everything they need for their investigation and that your actions don’t compromise the take down.
Finding out your child has been contacted by a predator is a heart-wrenching experience, but if you follow the steps we’ve outlined you will be able to help protect even more children from being abused. Taking the time to document the interactions, getting help, reporting what happened to law enforcement, and following their instructions will greatly increase the odds the predator will be successfully apprehended and brought to justice.
Finally, take care of yourself and your family and seek counselling to deal with the feelings that come from such a traumatic experience. You can do everything by the book and still have a predator slip through the cracks and contact your child, so it’s important not to blame yourself. All parents are doing the best they can to navigate the complicated world of online safety.