(Cdr KK Chaudhary, CISSP, CISA, CEH)
This blog is very important for parents and grandparents to save their children from cyber predators. Though there are many incidents of children falling prey to cyber predators, I am referring to one incident reported by The Hindu from Bengaluru recently.
“In a disturbing case of a teenager falling prey to an online predator, a 13-year old boy allegedly video-graphed his parents during sexual act and sent it to one of his Facebook friends on messenger after the latter asked him to do so. The content was used by this friend to blackmail the parents for money. According to the police, the teenager befriended a stranger by the name Thejal Patel on Facebook a few months ago. They used to chat for many hours every day. Thejal Patel allegedly also managed to get the phone numbers of the teenagers and his father. Soon, Thejal Patel started sending sexually explicit images and videos to the boy on Facebook Messenger. After gaining his trust, the person asked him to film and post nude videos or pictures of his parents, said the police.
It is essential to understand what is a cyber predator and how it traps children. This will help parents in making their children aware of such traps in cyber space and understand the cyber behaviour of their children before they are trapped.
As per Wikipedia, predator is one that kills and eats another living thing. Predators may hunt actively for prey or sit and wait for prey to approach within striking distance The example is Tiger (predator) and Deer (prey).
A cyber predator is an individual who ‘hunts’ for vulnerable children in cyberspace and traps him/her mostly for sexual and other abusive purposes.
The cyber predators ‘groom’ children before they prey. The grooming happens in five phases.
Phase 1: Connect: This is elementary phase, wherein the predator searches profiles of children active through various social media such a Facebook etc. He starts non-threatening conversation, shows common interest/hobbies and encourages them to share their thoughts and concerns.
Phase 2: Establish Trust: In this phase, he supports child's point of view regarding conflicts or his concerns and sympathizes with him over family, school, or friend friction. He acts like he is the only person who understands the child and develops child into a chat buddy.
Phase 3: Establish Secrecy: Having won trust, now he exchanges email addresses or phone numbers and encourages to keep parents dark. He encourages children to use secret email address and starts using adult-oriented materials and language.
Phase 4: Desensitizes Personal Shyness: In this phase, the predator encourages adult ‘experience’ of the child. He exploits the natural curiosity of child towards sex. He encourages child to shoot nude photographs or make video of sexual acts and share. All barriers of shame and shyness is broken in this phase.
Phase 5: Direct intimidation: In this phase the child is ready to be blackmailed. He faces threats of violence or public humiliation. Child’s emotional distance from parent increases and feels increasingly powerless.
Phase 6: Bite the Prey: This is final phase in which the predator achieves the final goal. He meets and harms the child or seeks ransom from parents for the ‘deed’ of the child.
TO Save Children From Cyber Predators Parents have to play very important role in saving their child from falling prey to the cyber predators. They have to come out of the belief - "My child can't be like this" and ignore such possibilities. In fact no child willingly falls into such trap. Predators Honey-trap them. The following points may be very important:-
In case your child has already been a victim of grooming, immediately inform the Cyber Crime Department of your area. This will help in timely counselling by professionals and help in catching such predators.
Child grooming incidents have increased with the advent of the internet. Such incidents are increasingly taking place online, through public chatrooms and social media. With the increasing number of children using smartphones and Internet, child grooming incidents can only be expected to rise in future. Parents and teachers have very important role to play in saving children from falling prey to cyber predators. So it is a responsibility of society and parents to Save Children From Cyber Predators.
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