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As parents, we constantly worry about the safety of our children. We know that lurking around every corner there is potential danger awaiting them. With the prevalence of online gaming, messaging, and social networking, these ever-present dangers even find their way into our own homes. Frighteningly, the ease with which criminals can access our children is quite literally right at their fingertips. As scary as this all is, there are ways we can better protect our children from the dangers of predators ready to find and groom them for kidnapping, human trafficking, and other crimes. Below we outline some simple, yet effective ways to protect your children from the dangers of the dark web.

Know the Signs

The best weapon we can equip ourselves with to best protect our children from dangerous predators is knowledge. As you read human trafficking stories, you may notice several repeating signs of danger. Having the ability to know the warning signs of potential victim grooming may help you save your child’s life. As previously mentioned, in this day and age grooming typically occurs online in gaming rooms, chat rooms, or via social media. The following four signals of victim-grooming may alert you that your child is in danger:

1. Targeting Stage: victim selection

2. Friendship Forming Stage: a secret relationship begins to develop

3. Loving Relationship Stage: A romantic relationship begins

4. Abusive Relationship Stage: Becomes an unloving and abusive relationship

Awareness of and the ability to recognize these evolving stages may save your child from harm. The best way to notice these behaviors is by being ever-present in your child’s online activity and relationships. Monitoring games and accounts whilst managing usage time and passwords are all ways you can keep a finger on your child’s online relationships.

Open Lines of Communication

Breeding a home environment where your children feel comfortable discussing even the most uncomfortable topics with you is of utmost importance. At an early age, begin talking with your children about the dangers of social media, predators, and sexual abuse. There are age-appropriate ways you can discuss these topics with your child no matter how old they are. The sooner your child understands there are bad people in the world, the sooner they can protect themselves from those dangerous individuals. Even more importantly foster an environment of self-love and self-respect, as well as mutual respect and love with your family. Doing so may hinder your child from seeking love and attention outside of the home which could inadvertently lead them right into the open-arms of a waiting predator.

Conduct Background Checks

Another sure-fire way to protect your kids from predators is to be sure you’re not unwittingly allowing unsavory characters into their lives. Nowadays, our children are in constant contact with adults outside their families. From teachers to coaches and tutors to babysitters our socially-involved children are constantly in contact with new adults. One way to be sure you’re making the safest choice is to run thorough background checks of these individuals. There are many free services online that allow you to investigate arrest records and criminal backgrounds of those you’re allowing to work with your child. For instance, if you visit the FBI’s website, you can find your state’s sex offender registry. Taking the time to complete a simple and free background check like this can mean the difference in your child’s safety.

Horror stories involving crimes against children are constantly barraging our televisions and computers which reignites the fears we have about raising our children in this scary world. Arming ourselves with the knowledge to combat predators infiltrating our homes is key. Being aware of warning signs that your child is being preyed upon and groomed for violent crimes can keep your child safe. Keeping open lines of communication with your children, so that they can recognize signs of danger will arm them with the ability to protect themselves. Finally, conducting simple background checks can tell you the true identity of individuals you open your doors to. There’s no way to 100% protect your children from the dangers of predators, however, following these few steps is one way to keep your children safer.