Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Changing lifestyles’ makes kids increasing vulnerable online

Children who are vulnerable are often victims of online predators, as their online activities, usually posts or videos about themselves, cause them to attract the attention of lumpen elements like pedophiles, trolls and criminals. These criminals exploit a child desire for attention, usually derived from not having a healthy relationship with parents or with other kids and at school.  When a child shuts off their normal support system, criminals fill the gap with their sweet talk, gaining trust and access to exploit the child. The degree of exploitation may vary, but at the simplest it involves coaxing a child to perform nude or seminude before a webcam. Recorded videos are sold or shared over porn sites.  In the worst cases children are repeatedly blackmailed into performing and each session is touted by the pedophile as an achievement of the level of control they can exert, to others in their ring.
In today’s world with rising consumerisation, an increasing number of advertisements are directed at younger children to help them look like adults. Today, lingerie for the age group 4-12 is advertised online using children of the same age as models. Parents too, are drawn into promoting their kids. It is not surprising that with instant messaging children are increasingly sending pictures and videos of themselves to other friends, some of which as in the case of sexting may be considered self-made pornography. Statistics from an old study in 2009 and the trend has grown since then show that 22% of teen girls and 20% of teen boys have sent nude or seminude photos of themselves over the Internet or their phones and a majority believe those exchanging sexy content are "expected" to date or hook up. Beside legal action for having such porn stored on their mobiles or being responsible for their distribution, there is the even greater danger of these pictures being used to harass and defame years after. What the child might have sent on the spur of the moment becomes their worst nightmare.

Online lifestyles also allow children to broadcast their talents and create a fan club of unknown fans, some of whom may be undesirable elements and older people. These elements through flattering messages slowly gaining the trust of the child, in pursuit of their nefarious goals.

As lifestyles change parents must keep a closer watch on their children, be more participative and have health dialogues on their online lifestyle

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