POLICE ASSOCIATION OF NOVA SCOTIA 97 It is estimated that approximately 70% of the minors in Canada access the Internet either from home, schools, community centers and libraries or from some newer Internet-capable devices. This is up more than ten-fold since 1996. Now our children are using cell phones with Internet and text-capability, interactive gaming devices (such as X-Box Live 360 and Sony Playstation Network) with voice over Internet and live chat features, handheld devices with Bluetooth and other Wi-Fi remotecommunication technology (such as PSP gaming devices and mobile phones) and social networking profiles (such as MySpace, Facebook, Piczo, Bebo and others) where they can advertise their favorite things, where they live and pictures of themselves and their friends to anyone who wants to see them. Ten years ago, when I first wrote my safety tips telling parents to put the computer in a central location, that made sense. It was a central point, where parents could get involved and supervise their children's interactive communications and surfing activities. Now, where they take their communication technologies with them in their pockets, backpacks, and purses, it is not longer as relevant as it once was. Now, instead of expecting parents to watch everything their children are doing online from the comfort of their livingrooms, or kitchen counter, we have to do more. Now, we have to teach our children to use the "filter between their ears" and exercise good judgment and care when using any interactive device. While teaching parents how to supervise their children online was a challenge (I have written the leading books, worldwide, for parents on Internet safety), teaching children to "ThinkB4uClick" is much harder. The saddest thing is that our children are mainly at risk because of their own actions. Some are intentional. Others are inadvertent. They may willingly engage in communications with people they don't know in real life "RL," agree to meet them offline or send them sexuallyprovocative images or perform sex acts on webcams they share with people they encounter online. They cyberbully each other by advertising their victims for sexual services, posting real or manufactured sexually explicit images of them online or by passing online rumors able their sexual preferences or activities. Putting Their Heads into the Lion's Mouth While educators and child psychologists understand this, most parents will be shocked at the suggestion that their preteens and teens are in control of their safety online and putting themselves at risk, often intentionally. But unless we accept this, and direct our attentions at solutions aimed at this reality, we are all wasting our time. We will focus on the much smaller segments of preteens and teens who are being victimized through no fault of their own - those who are targeted at random. All others need to change their online behaviors. And that's where we need to devote all our attention. For this to happen, you need to understand the truth. For years we have told parents and minors not to share too much personal information online. "You can be tracked down in real life," we told them. But, notwithstanding anything to the contrary reported in the media and by some local law enforcement officers, to my knowledge, to date, no preteen or teen has been sexually-exploited by someone who tracked them down from information they posted online. In each and every case, to my knowledge, to teens and preteens have gone willingly to meet their molester or otherwise agreed to meet them in real life. They may have thought they were meeting someone other than the 46 year old who is posing as a teen, but they knew they didn't know this person in real life. They are willingly agreeing to meet strangers offline - in shocking numbers. What does this mean? It means we can do something about this. It means we can educate teens and preteens about the realities of meeting people in real life they only know in cyberspace. It means we can create solutions. It means that this is, at least for the time being, 100% preventable. It means that what we do today will have an immediate impact on the safety of our youth. It means we have to join together and work on things that are effective and abandon those that are not. Luckily, while our young people are sharing much more information online than ever before, to my knowledge, predators aren't using it to hunt down our children offline. They are like vampires. They need to be invited in. Sadly, our teens and preteens are too often doing just that. They are inviting them to offline meetings, phone calls and videochats. But, as an expert in cyberrisk management, I can tell you that this is good news. Because we have a single point of risk - our children, preteens and teens. If we stop their risky and unsafe behaviors, and teach them when to reach out for help and how, we can manage this risk. We can keep our children safe. Preteens and Teens at Risk: Most of the high risk preteens and teens fall into three categories: those who are naive and looking for love and affection (typically the "loners" and "shy" preteens and teens), those who already engage in other high risks activities, such as drug and alcohol abuse, driving too fast or doing risky things for the thrill of it (often the student leaders, athletes, cheerleaders and very competitive teens, the risks takers SNAPSHOT OF MINORS ONLINE AND HOW PREDATORS REACH THEM by Parry Aftab copyright 2007, all rights reserved (cont’d...)