Child Safety and the Internet
Probably one of the most horrifying fears almost every parent shares is the thought that their child may attract the attention of a pedophile. When I first let my daughter start a blog, we instituted a number of guidelines that we thought were reasonable. One thing we did not think of was the innocent sounding title of her blog. One day, I noticed a spike in her traffic. I wasn't concerned at first because I knew a lot of the kids spent a lot of time visiting each other's sites. But then, I looked at her traffic log. Oh my. They were all off of google searches seeking out the name of her blog. Which happened to be the nickname of a pretty famous adult...well, you get the picture. Like I ever would have known that. I took little comfort in the fact that none hung around and there were no repeat visits I could find. She wasn't what they were looking for. (It was nice, however, that this was a European thing...a little far for a surprise visit.)

So along with all the other safety advice out there, I strongly recommend you take a moment to google your children's names, nicknames, and any other name they may go by online, including the titles of any sites they may run.

There is something else, however, that I think is important to keep in mind. The most unlikely place your child will ever meet a pedophile is online. If you allow them to hang out in chatrooms and do not supervise them, they may be sexually solicited. One in five are. But pretty basic safety precautions can eliminate that.

More frightening are the statistics that one in five children are real life. And this molestation is rarely a result of internet activity. In fact, studies of pedophiles show that the most likely person to harm your child (besides you or your spouse) is someone you would never expect. Only 10% of all sexual abuse occurs at the hands of a stranger. A survey of information I found interesting:
A pedophile is likely to amass a large collection of photographs of children, often fully clothed. These are most often taken at parks, youth activities, beauty pageants, etc. They are often taken with a telescopic lens and then are shared. Increasing technology is making it easier for someone to photograph your child without your knowledge.

He is most likely male, but there is a larger number of female offenders than you might guess. In fact, adult males who report being victimized as children are quite likely to identify a female as their abuser.

Older children are responsible for a large percentage of sexual abuse cases.

They are drawn to any activity involving children and are usually well-liked by children and adults alike. Check your church's policy for youth workers. Many do not require background checks and that is not news to offenders. In fact, many appear quite religious.

Many offenders keep long lists of potential victims and detailed personal information while they are developing a relationship with the child.

Offenders do not normally attack children in an aggressive manner. Many children, particularly younger ones, may not really realize that they have been abused because most offenders go to great lengths (extensive grooming) to get the child's consent. A child who reveals the abuse often does so by accident and will later recant.
Internet safety is important, but I think it is also important not to get too focused on this issue. The greater danger likely lies fairly close to home.

For more information, I found these sites useful:

Prevent Abuse Now
Darkness to Light
Mental Health Matters (profile of a pedophile)

On a related theme, Pursuing Holiness discusses children's access to internet pornography. Our culture has changed a lot in a short period of time, and (not surprisingly) the more pornography an individual views, the less concerned the person is about protecting children from it.

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