No child should experience being trafficked or exploited
My mission is to rescue, my dream is that one day I won’t have to.
Firstly, before someone says, "but you post images of your children", I am not anti-posting. The internet and social media is definitely here to stay, so understanding the risks and being educated on safety measures is more important then switching off or denying children access to the internet. What I am anti to, is posting inappropriate images of your kids and exploiting them online for your own personal gain. Social media is sadly infested with parents exploiting theirs or other kids and that's what I cannot stand. I encourage my kids to use the internet with rules and education on how they can keep safe. We have conversations every week and they know they can turn to me for anything. My tips, which are not the bees all and ends all, are based on real cases, mine and my teams experience using social media and inside the darkweb, tracking and chasing predators. We use fake social media profiles just like law enforcement, to lure child predators into thinking they are chatting to an underage child. We build a solid case file against the predator and pass our findings with evidence to law enforcement. On just about ever app we work in, we can be chatting to a predator within five minutes.
Tips for posting kid's images online
1. Don't post images. If you are absolutely against posting images, then don't post any.
2. Use a PRIVATE social media account.
3. Don't post naked or half naked images.
4. Don't use #hashtags
5. Don't post images with kid's legs spread open.
6. After changing your social media accounts from public to private, do not forget to remove anyone on your followers list you don't know.
7. Check your kid's accounts for all the above.
8. Monitor your kid's social media accounts regularly (2-3 times per week)
9. Have all your family do all the above for 'your' kid's images that they have or may post in the future.
10. Sit down with grandparents, aunties, uncles etc, and explain your rules for posting images of your children.
*Don't be scared to set rules and enforce them if needed. Some family especially grandparents who are very proud my not understand how things are on the internet in 2022. So educate them. If they still don't listen, don't send them image they may post and don't allow them to take images of YOUR children. Harsh, maybe but these are your kids not anyone else's so it's ultimately your responsibility to protect them.
11. Don't use 'emojis' or 'stickers' to cover your kid's private parts. They can be removed and the picture manipulated into a sexaul full naked image. Predators can and are known for doing this. Even though removing the emoji will 'not' show the 'original' image (this can only be done with the original image, that being you), predators simply photoshop a penis or vagina onto where you used the emoji. Bingo! Predators now have a full naked image of your child to use or sell in the dark web.
12. Enjoy social media and gaming, they don't have to be scary.
Be aware, not scared.
*Remember.... once an image is online, it's not coming off even if you delete it. There are ways to follow and track a pictures footprint.
**Social media can be safe, just THINK BEFORE you post and understand there are a lot of predators stalking to steal images, images you may think are innocent.
Tips for online safety
The FBI 'estimates' 500,000 online predators are a daily threat to kids going online. I would guess much more.
1. Learn about websites software, games and apps your kids use.
2. Talk about what is appropriate to say or share online. This includes your teenagers.
3. Stress that images and comments never truly disappear online.
4. Makes sure you utilize privacy settings on games, apps and devices.
5. Teach kids never to accept friend requests from someone they do not know.
6. Teach kids never to chat to someone they do not know.
If you can teach your children and they understand and listen to you about points 5 and 6, then you immediately eliminate 99% of predators.
7. Keep yours and your child's personal information secure. That includes, first and last name, birthdate, address, phone number, any government ID numbers. So many parents especially mothers, put their child's names, dates of birth and location in their social media bio. It's a big big no no. You wouldn't walk up to a complete stranger in the street and say, "Hello, my child's name is Jane Smith, her date of birth is 20 October 2018 and she lives in Hammersmith, London" ......... SOOO why on earth are you giving this information to 5.03 billion internet users in your bio??!
8. Set up parental controls. You don't have to purchase parental control software to protect your kids during online learning. There are already a lot of helpful tools built into your device hardware, software and internet browser.
9. Keep everything updated. It seems simple but one of the best ways to keep kids safe online is to make sure that all devices, software and firmware are up to date.
10. Don't respond to emails, texts, or messages from strangers.
11. Don't click links, open attachments, or accept gifts from someone you don't know.
12. Never agree to meet someone you don't know and met online.
As with many things in life there are always myths. Sadly, child exploitation has myths and conspiracy theorists looking to boost their followers. So, it's vitally important you know what is a Myth and Reality. The Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation or ACCCE, are not only the world's leading law enforcement in combating child exploitation, they have some good resources.
One topic I get asked about every week. Based on my experience dealing with predators and victims of sexual abuse, I wouldn't allow my kids to sleep over someone's house unless I am present. That's my choice based on my knowledge, my work and as an ex police officer. You as a parent must think and decide what you think is best. One thing you can not ignore is the fact 93% of kids who are sexually abused or raped, know their abuser. I also know, kids are mostly abused in a known 'safe' environment, NOT somewhere strange.
Remember, teen cousins are also a large % of abusers, abusing younger cousins or same age. This topic will create reactions ranging from relieved agreement to disbelieving scorn. The bottom line is, it's a topic you as a parent will eventually have to face when your kids get to an age friends start having sleepovers. Knowledge and education is how you keep your kids safe, not by ignoring or not having these discussions.
I suggest parents do careful research and consider five risk factors that whether you like or not, come with sleepovers.
1. Kids are most often abused in familiar places, NOT in strange places. This makes the home of a friend or acquaintance a relatively common or likely place for a child to possibly be abused.
2. Kids are most often abused by trusted people, not by strangers. Furthermore, they are typically abused by males. Sleepovers tend to happen in the homes of trusted people where males are present.
3. Kids tend to be safest in small crowds where it is difficult to separate one from the others. A large sleepover presents a enhanced risk because kids can easily be separated from the group with their absence unnoticed. It only takes seconds to be sexually abused, but will scare for a lifetime.
4. Households often have visitors staying in them as well as the 'normal' family members. Even though you may assess the family to be safe, you cannot account for unexpected or unmentioned guests.
5. Sleepovers often allow kids access to phones, televisions, and other media in a context in which few safeguards are in place or in which kids operate by different rules, usually unsupervised. Still, knowing that parents have the right to make decisions on their own, I suggest parents at least consider these next five points.....
1. Are your kids old enough to recognize when someone is trying to engage them in inappropriate sexual behaviour? The younger the child, the greater the risk when you let them attend a sleepover. Younger kids won't recognise a risky situation until it is too late.
2. Are your kids assertive enough to draw attention to inappropriate overtures from other kids or adults? Some kids have the confidence to yell and push away someone who is making them feel uncomfortable, while other kids are too timid or uneducated to try to stop an adult, child or older child from hurting them. No child should attend a sleepover who lacks the confidence and assertiveness to rebuff inappropriate sexual behavior.
3. Will you child call you if something unsafe is happening at a sleepover? Some kids are easily influenced by peers and won't tell parents if something goes wrong. I strongly suggest you create a known family code. Eg: "My finger is sore'. Your kids can call you anytime when they feel uncomfortable and say the code and you immediately go pick them up, regardless if it's a sleepover or not.
4. How many kids will be attending the sleepover? A sleepover with more than eight kids per adult supervisor is too large. When calculating a ratio of one adult to eight kids, the count must include all the kids who will be in the house at the time of the sleepover.
Another issue to consider is the tensions that might arise with your kids and other parents if you allow your kids to go to sleepovers with some friends but not others. It's much easier to have a 'no sleepover' rule, without exceptions or individual explanations. The most important takeaway from all the above on sleepovers is that parents must think carefully and assess risks realistically BEFORE allowing their kids to participate in sleepovers.
As I always say, you get only one chance to protect your kids. Predators only need one chance to destroy yours and your kid's life forever. Only when you understand the 'possible' outcomes of a sleepover, are you in a better position as a responsible parent to make better decisions.
Click on the image below to read my blog post on sleepovers
Why using correct body part terminology is so important
First of all, there is nothing inappropriate about teaching kids the proper names for their anatomy. Kids shouldn't learn that a penis or a vagina is an inappropriate word. These are simply body parts. Without proper terminology, children have a very hard time telling someone about inappropriate touching.
Basically, when parents use slang or nonsense to name kids’ genitals, they’re sending a loud & clear message that you shouldn’t talk about those things, & that they are unhealthy or shameful.
Studies & my own experience show that predators are less likely to target kids who use correct body part names because it's a signal those kids have been empowered & educated in body safety & boundaries.
Understand, predators are cowards & don’t like fuss, confrontation, attention or rejection by kids who stand up for themselves as a result of knowing body boundaries. They target vulnerable kids who have no idea they are being manipulated.
Speaking about body parts & privacy is the foundation for introducing kids to consent. I know of some kids who have been sexually abused to call their bottom their vagina. Totally falling in line with what a paedophile’s defence lawyer wants to try & have the child discredited. Parents sometimes think that their kids are "too young" to talk about protecting their bodies because they think that their kids can't handle the information. It is never too young to talk to kids about protecting their bodies. It also helps children with self-esteem & confidence.
If a stranger, family friend, or family member is sexually abusing them, then it can empower your child to tell you. They’ll be able to tell you exactly what happened & what parts of their body, or another person’s body, were involved.
It is our duty as parents to teach our children about the workings of the world. As part of teaching them their colors & their letters, we should also be including their body parts.
Why you should never use the word 'SECRETS'
We teach our kids all sorts of ways to keep themselves safe. We teach them to watch the hot stove, we teach them to put their seatbelts on, we teach them to look both ways before they cross the street, but more often than not – body boundaries is not taught until much older – until sometimes…it is too late.
Do your kids go to daycare or pre-school? Do you have friends or family over to your house? Do they play at the neighbor’s house? The fact is – you cannot fully prevent the risk of your kids being sexually abused. I know that is hard to stomach & not what you want to hear as a parent – but unfortunately it is reality.
I have worked with really great families – who thought they had really great friends, neighbors, playmates, teachers, coaches, teammates, cousins, babysitters, siblings, uncles, boyfriends, & classmates. Perpetrators look just like you & me - I think that is the scariest fact. Not knowing who a paedophile is. We cannot always prevent our kids from being sexually abused, & we cannot lock them in a cupboard till they are 18, but arming our kids with knowledge is the first line of defence & a good preventative measure.
The first & most important thing is to STOP using the word SECRET. No, there’s no good & bad secrets as some promote. Keep it simple & not confusing to kids. The word secret is exactly what predators use time & time again as part of their grooming & manipulation, so we need to avoid using it for that reason alone. Replace SECRET with SURPRISE or create your own fun word.
Remember, it’s your responsibility to start & incorporate such important topics into your family routine & never ever say nothing will happen to your kids.
What does a paedophile or predator look like?
One of the subjects in Project Rescue Children's Child Sexual Abuse Sports Workshop, is teaching children that not all predators are old men with grey hair and fat stomachs. It's important you educate your children that a predator can look like anyone and also be female. This is why having these conversations at least twice a week in a comfortable setting like the dinner table or around the bbq, is crucial to keep your children safe. Sit them down and show them the below images. Ask them which are paedophiles. For the record, they have ALL been convicted of sexaully abusing or raping children.
So, who is a paedophile?
Young, charismatic, sometimes famous & so sincere, is the new breed of sick paedophiles preying on kids, are not the grubby old men of the stereotype. Parents must understand, child predators are not just old men. This thinking is wrong & dangerous for parents & kids.
The myth of a old Western man walking the streets of Southeast Asia with a young local kid, being the only paedophile type, is outdated. Yes, they still exist but they have evolved & gotten so much more sophisticated.
The 21st century paedophile hangs around on the internet rather than public toilets, schools & playgrounds. They easily groom kids from chat groups or gaming consoles more so than driving around the streets with sweets. Masters of manipulation! They’ll groom you or your kids without you even knowing you’re being groomed. They are not just fat old grey obvious creeps with greasy hair who a parent could more easily suspect & keep other kids away.
The new type of paedophile is often a professional in well paid job with a public profile, who is also often loved or respected within their communities. They thrive on seeking positions of trust, teacher, sports coach or family friend to name a few, in order to gain easier access to kids. A common denominator is actually charisma. Paedophiles groom the community & YOU, so when they are suspected of sexually abusing kids, the community will support them by not believing in the allegations or the child… “No John is not able to do that to that child”. Better known to my team as paedophile sympathisers. These are the new breed of paedophiles in the 21st century.
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