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10 Signs Your Child is Encountering Online Predators 2023

It is estimated that nearly five million children between the ages of 10 and 18 will encounter online predators in the United States by 2022. Unfortunately, this phenomenon often goes unreported and unnoticed by adults. Sometimes, even when victims seek help from parents and teachers, the hurt still hasn’t stopped.

In this guide, we will discuss 10 signs that your child encounters online predators. We will also discuss what steps you can take if you believe your child is the target of an online predator.

What is an Online Predator?

An online predator is an individual who uses the internet to target and exploit vulnerable individuals, particularly children and teenagers. These predators use various tactics such as grooming, manipulation, and deception to gain the trust of their victims and ultimately harm them. They may pose as someone else or create fake profiles to deceive their targets into sharing personal information or engaging in inappropriate behavior.

Online predators can be found on social media sites, chat rooms, and gaming platforms, among other online spaces. They often seek out children and teenagers who appear to be lonely, insecure, or seeking attention. They use their knowledge of online culture and technology to manipulate and control their victims, often leading to sexual exploitation or other forms of abuse.

How do online predators groom their victims?

Online predators use various tactics to gain the trust of their victims and create a false sense of intimacy. This process is known as grooming. Online predators use grooming to manipulate their victims into performing sexual acts, sharing explicit images or videos, or meeting in person. Grooming can occur in various forms, including through chat rooms, social media platforms, and video games.

Online predators often begin by establishing a relationship with their victims, posing as someone who is trustworthy and likable. They may pretend to be a peer or someone who shares the same interests as the victim. These predators use the information they gather from their victims’ online profiles to create a persona that is relatable and appealing. Once they have gained the victim’s trust, they begin to escalate their behavior, often introducing sexual topics or images into their conversations.

Online sexual predators may also use emotional manipulation to groom their victims. They may offer emotional support and validation, making the victim feel special and loved. This emotional connection can make it harder for victims to recognize the predator’s true intentions. The predator may also use blackmail or threats to keep their victims silent about their interactions.

Signs of Child Targeted by Online Predators

You must be aware of the signs that your child can be a victim of online predators. Here are some common signs that your child may be encountering an online predator:

Unusual Activity on Social Media

One of the most significant signs that your child may be targeted by an online predator is unusual activity on their social media accounts. If you notice that your child’s social media accounts have unusual activity, such as new friends or followers, messages from unknown people, and posts or messages that seem out of character, your child may be being groomed by an online predator. Online predators use social media to contact children, befriend them, and gain their trust.

It is crucial to monitor your child’s social media activity and talk to them about the dangers of online predators. Teach them not to accept friend requests from strangers and to be cautious when sharing personal information online. Encourage them to talk to you if they ever feel uncomfortable with any online interactions.

Unfamiliar Names in Their Contacts

If you notice unfamiliar names in your child’s contacts, it may be a sign that they are being groomed online. Online predators often use fake names and profiles to gain access to children’s accounts. They may also use mutual friends or contacts to gain your child’s trust. If you see unfamiliar names in your child’s contacts, it is essential to investigate and find out who these people are.

You can talk to your child and ask them about their online friends. If your child is hesitant to talk or seems uncomfortable, it may be a sign that they are trying to hide something. It is important to create a safe and open dialogue with your child about their online activity.

Unexplained Gifts

If your child receives gifts or packages from strangers or unknown sources, it may be a sign that they are being targeted by an online predator. Online predators often use gifts as a way to gain a child’s trust and manipulate them. They may send gifts such as toys, gadgets, or even money.

If your child receives an unexplained gift, it is important to talk to them about it and investigate further. Ask them where the gift came from and if they have been communicating with anyone online.

Excessive online time

If your child is spending an excessive amount of time online, it may be a sign that they are being targeted by an online predator. Online predators often groom children by spending time chatting with them online, gaining their trust, and manipulating them. They may encourage your child to spend more time online and isolate them from their friends and family. It is important to monitor your child’s online activity and set limits on the amount of time they spend online. Encourage them to engage in other activities such as sports or hobbies.

Sexualizing normal conversation

A predator enjoys turning average conversations into intimate physical encounters. They often share explicit videos and photos and try to persuade their victims to participate in pornography and cybersex. If your child is having conversations that are sexual, this could be a sign that they are being groomed by an online predator.

Secretive Communication

If your child is being targeted by an online predator, they may become secretive about their online activity. They may hide their phone or computer, use secret codes or language, or become defensive when asked about their online interactions. If you notice any of these signs, it is essential to investigate further.

Unusual Internet Use

If your child is visiting websites that you don’t recognize or are inappropriate for their age, this could be a sign that they are being groomed by an online predator.

Unexplained Changes in Mood

It is common for teenagers and pre-teens to change their behavior. Still, a radical change in their attitude or desire for social interaction can signify being groomed by an online predator. If your child is exhibiting sudden mood changes, You should pay attention. 

Pornography is found on their device

It was reported by the Crimes Against Children Research Center that 25% of children had been exposed to unwanted pornographic content online. Often, predators will send victims pornography to desensitize them to sexual activity. If your child has inappropriate images or videos on their device, they might be being groomed online.

Loss of interest in hobbies

If your child suddenly loses interest in their hobbies or activities, it may be a sign that they are being targeted by an online predator. Online predators often try to isolate children from their friends and family, and they may encourage your child to spend more time online and less time engaging in other activities. Whenever you notice your child is suddenly losing interest in hobbies or activities that they used to enjoy, speak with them about what might be going on.

What to Do if You Suspect Your Child is Encountering Online Predators

Online predators have become a real concern for parents. With the increasing use of technology, children are now more exposed to potential dangers online. As a parent, it is important to be vigilant and take necessary precautions to protect your child from online predators. If you suspect that your child is encountering online predators, it is crucial to take immediate action. The first step is to talk to your child and educate them about the risks associated with the online world. Encourage them to share any concerns they may have with you or another trusted adult.

Next, monitor your child’s online activities and keep an eye out for any suspicious behavior. Check their social media accounts, emails, and online messaging platforms regularly. You can also install parental control software like iKeyMonitor to restrict access to certain websites and monitor their online behavior.

It is also important to report any suspicious activity to the authorities. Contact your local law enforcement agency or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. They can assist you in identifying and tracking down online predators. If your child has already been victimized by an online predator, seek the help of a counselor or therapist. They can provide emotional support to your child and help them cope with the trauma.


Online predators are a real threat to children, and parents must stay vigilant and aware of the signs that their child may be the target of a predator. By staying informed and talking openly with your child about online safety, you can help protect them from online predators. If you believe an online predator is targeting your child, take immediate action and contact the authorities.



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