Have you noticed that commonplace words don’t quite mean what they used to? It’s a subtle but alarming shift when simple words such as “grooming,” “mirroring” and “fishing” take on entirely new meanings when it comes to the web and the threat of online predators.
Here are three words as a parent you may want to “re learn,” understand, and explain to your kids.
- Grooming. Predators are calculating. Online predators do not think the way you think or act the way you act. Their motives and minds work on a drastically different cog. So understanding a predator and teaching your family what to be on guard against takes learning about a whole other breed of human. Predators view tracking down a child online as a type of cat and mouse game. There’s triumph in the hunt for a predator. They invest a great deal of time—sometimes months—trying to get a child to trust them online and share personal information. This process is called grooming. While predators may be mentally disturbed, it does not mean they are stupid. They figure out what is lacking in a child’s life emotionally and find any way possible to try and fill those gaps. They use psychological ploys to gain trust and entry into the child’s world. Then they strike when they believe they have a solid bridge of trust with a child.
- Mirroring. Predators are devious. They can pick up on a child’s emotional hot buttons and begin to “mirror” back those same emotions, which can create an instant bond of friendship or feeling of shared pain or understanding. If a child is bored day after day, a predator can make simple comments like “Tell me about it. There’s never anything to do here. My parents are always with their friends.” Or if a child says, “I hate my mom she’s such a nag,” a predator can pose empathy with a comment such as, “I can’t wait until I’m older and don’t have to put up with my parents.”
- Fishing. Predators are shrewd. The term “fishing” in the predator realm is different from the “catfishing” story we posted a few weeks ago. Fishing is when a predator “fishes” for personal information from a child as a relationship is being built. This information can be about a child’s family routine, sports activities, or their likes and dislikes. The more information a predator can “fish” from a child, the more ways he can manipulate that information to gain trust and access to the child. Predators “fish” by scanning social profiles, online conversations, photos—and also by simply asking the child simple questions followed by more in-depth questions. Because a predator’s mind is criminal in its thinking, a child can make an innocent comment online such as “I can’t wait to go see Cinderella this weekend.” A predator can take that snippet of information, do a quick search, and figure out which high school is showing a production of Cinderella and—viola—the child has unwittingly divulged her location to the predator.
In part II on Thursday this week, we will list a few powerful tips on how to coach your kids on specific ways to spot a predator and make sure they are both savvy and safe online.