Do you know what your children are watching on television when you are not around? Do you know who your children are talking to in Internet chatrooms? Many parents have little time to censor and monitor their children’s viewing habits due to the time they spend working part-time jobs, shift-work and juggling their schedules. Because of this, children are finding their way into media venues they should not be seeing.

Up until the mid 1990’s, the biggest concern was scrutinizing what children were watching on television. We were very concerned about what the effects of viewing violence and sex on television and movies would have on children. In the last couple of years, we have witnessed increased random acts of violence carried out in schools and neighborhoods by children, alone or in gangs. More recently, the concern has shifted to Internet chatrooms. We live in a time where kids spend more time playing video games, watching television and surfing the web than they do playing sports and doing outdoor activities. The Internet has created so many new fascinating opportunities for children to explore. Internet chatrooms are one of these “awesome” activities which many children can’t get enough of!

As a former member of Child Find Canada and a criminal psychology professor, I have a vested interest in looking at what children are doing on-line. We want to protect our children from perpetrators who use the Net to solicit or compromise our children. The pornography that kids can encounter on the Internet is concern enough. However, chatrooms provide an “interactive” concern for parents. Who are your children talking too? What are they talking about with others? Do they meet people they chat with off of the Net? Do you monitor your child’s time and use of the Internet? These are great questions you need to be able to answer.

Some Pedophiles and child molesters use the Net as a means to abduct children or use them for their own demented gratification. I have heard stories of young children believing they are chatting with other children their own age and are asked to meet at shopping malls, stores and parks. They show up only to be abducted or threatened by an adult. Molesters also use coercion or ploys to trap the child’s attention. They promise them gifts, meetings with celebrities, fame, fortune and opportunities if they will meet them. There are those who ask children to send them pictures or they solicit them for “cyber” sex over the Net. This is what parents have to be cautiously aware of and protect their children from.

I offer a class “sexual violence” in the Criminal Psychology program we run at Niagara College which coincidentally, we run on-line as well so potential students around the world can learn about criminal psychology and criminal profiles. In a class a couple of years ago, college students were asked to do projects. I had two adults examine the possibilities of cyber sex and pedophiles on the Net. The two ladies posed as two children who checked out a few chatrooms. During their presentation to the class, they discussed how they were compromised and asked provocative questions by pedophiles posing as children. This was very eye-opening and scary to listen too!

The Internet is a wonderful communication device for sending and receiving information. Unfortunately, with anything created for good use, there are always those bad seeds which wreck it for others. Parents, please be cautious of who your children are talking to on the Net and what they are talking about. It seems the virtual wolf has found a way to dress in sheep’s clothing and try to hurt our children in yet another senseless way! There are great computer programs you can install which will protect your kids as well as other great organizations in your community or city to prevent harm from coming to your kids when they are on-line.