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The Dangers of the Internet

When I started school for the first time ever, we would start with first grade. Kindergarten was an option. I learned to read that year and absolutely loved it. At the end of the year my teacher, Mrs. White, gave out books for different reasons to her students for their achievements. I had read the most books of anyone in my class that year. My gift was a book entitled, “Never Talk to Strangers” by Irma Joyce. This became one of my favorite books as a child. I read it from cover to cover to myself, my parents, my dolls and honestly, to anyone who would listen. Stranger danger was something my parents engrained in me when it came to safety matters. I was always aware that I needed to be cautious when it came to encountering people that I was not acquainted with. 

The conversation of ‘stranger danger’ has changed through the years. Or at least it should be changing. No longer do we only need to address strangers that can be dangerous, but we also need to teach our children to know what to look for when it comes to being in an uncomfortable situation with another. In the curriculum Stewards of Children, they share that one out of 10 children know their abuser. That adds more than offenders, perpetrators, etc. being a total stranger. 

In addition, now, we have the World Wide Web, also known as the internet. The internet has so many attributes that are positive, but it also has a side that can be not so positive. In the early days of internet, we heard about the man who posed as a child and lured individuals into chat rooms, private messaging and more. As the internet continues to grow and advance, so does the many ways to lure children. As child abuse in general is being talked about more openly, more and more. Communities are being trained and equipped to know how to react and respond appropriately to those acts. Internet crimes against children is a topic that is growing in the crime itself but also in beginning to identify ways to educate people how to equip adults—parents and caregivers—to know how to educate their children on healthy ways to navigate the internet. 

A study found in the Science Direct Journal from March 2023 shares that technology is changing the look of crimes against children. Due to the internet, its easy access for children and perpetrators, is causing law enforcement and other agencies to look at these crimes differently. This technology has brought about new dynamics in how to investigate the crimes. To learn more about this study read the entire journal entry here.

One of the new buzz words associated with internet crimes against children is Sextortion. Sextortion is defined as the victim being coerced and/or forced to exchange sexual images in exchange for money or sexual favors. A newly released documentary, Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic, produced by Stephen Peek gives a first hand experience of one of their child’s friends experienced this in real time. The producers of this film are using this film to start conversations about the epidemic of online crimes against children. Check out the films trailer here.

As our use and dependency on the internet continues to grow and change, we need to adapt ourselves to stay engaged and make a commitment to stay up to date with changes. Look for ways to become more informed about the internet and how to keep kids safe. There are some books that have been written that can assist parents and caregivers in having those healthy conversations about the internet. Here are some you could read with your child:

Clicker the Cat by Kyla Cullinane

Chicken Clicking by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross

Onn the Internet Our First Talk about Internet Safety by Jillian Roberts

The Technology Tail by Julia Cook

As we continue to navigate through the advances in the World Wide Web—The Internet—let’s help keep our kids safe by not only talking about what can look like stranger danger but also what can be a healthy way to navigate through the internet.

Faith Boehmer

Prevention & Volunteer Coordinator