Child molesters have specific ways of targeting children and using technology as a tool is one of the preferred methods. It’s ironic that a child predator, who is devious and cunning, would utilize text messaging and social networking to make friends with children when most of this is traceable and can be shown to a parent at any time. A child predators strategy to grooming their victims, which is the process a child predator uses to develop a friendship with the child, is used again and again until the child responds the way they want. An off comment or a friendly text message that is slightly out of bounds of normal conversation is used to “soften” the victim up and “push the boundaries” for future communication. By the time a child molester puts something in text that is clearly out of bounds, the child has engaged in enough communication to give the predator the confidence he or she needs to take the risk of stepping way out of bounds.
As parents we should keep a close eye on all the social networking and texting our children are doing, so we are able to perceive a threat that our children might not see as a threat. Children are more open to all forms of communication and explicit content. Children are now “sexting” to each other, which is the process of sending nude pictures between their phones. A joint study by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and CosmoGirl suggests that 20% of teens (ages 13-19) and 33% of young adults (ages 20-26) have shared nude or semi-nude pictures of themselves either via text or by posting online. Teen girls are slightly more likely to do this than boys and 11% of the young teen girls (ages 13-16) admitted to sending suggestive photos of themselves.
Consider the recent arrest of a Former Boys and Girls Club Coach arrested for soliciting a girl. A 27 year old man faces attempted child solicitation and improper communication with a child for asking the girl if she ever “touches” herself. This question is clearly inappropriate, but some children might not realize that this is the behavior of a child predator and that questions like these are build up to what’s coming.
In the case of Clifford Moran, he began grooming his victim by communicating with her through texts about friends, family and the 4th grade. Then, it allegedly escalated to Moran wanting to see pictures of the young girl “maybe some naughty full body ones?”
According to Indiana Code of Law a person who solicits and improperly communicates with a child, as outlined in IC 35-42-4-6, is committing a felony:
Sec. 6. (a) As used in this section, “solicit” means to command, authorize, urge, incite, request, or advise an individual:
(1) in person;
(2) by telephone;
(3) in writing;
(4) by using a computer network (as defined in IC 35-43-2-3(a));
(5) by advertisement of any kind; or
(6) by any other means; to perform an act described in subsection (b) or (c).
Keep an eye on all your children’s correspondence with leaders in church, sports, school or any other activities. A good rule of thumb is that no one over the age of 18 should be contacting your child directly, unless they come through you. This might sound too conservative, but this policy can also help you prevent other issues like “sexting” and overall it can help you build a hedge of protection around your most precious gift, your children.
Get information on how to train your leaders to spot potential child abusers through Protect Youth Sports and get background checks and child safety training resources.