Children As VictimsChildren as Victims

In order to help protect children from online sexual predators, it is important that parents and guardians understand how children’s vulnerabilities may make them susceptible to manipulation by these predators.


Children are naturally curious about sex. By acting as guides, predators can exploit this curiosity and gradually lure children into sexual activity. Adolescents questioning their sexuality are even more at risk, as they may go online with the intent of finding support and companionship.[1] Instead, they may find adults looking to take advantage of this vulnerability.

Need for Attention

Even if children receive ample attention from their families, they still crave it from others, especially those they perceive as older and more mature. Predators may offer children affection and flattery in order to coerce them into sexual acts.


Children may become rebellious when they reach adolescence, and predators can use this to their advantage. A child who is victimized while disobeying parental rules may be reluctant to admit it for fear of being punished.

Respect for Adults

Because children are taught to obey and respect adults, they may be less likely to disobey directions given by an adult, even those which make them uncomfortable. An adult looking to harm children can exploit this to influence a child’s behavior.

[1] Wolak J, Finkelhor D, Mitchell K, Ybarra M. Online “Predators” and Their Victims: Myths, Realities, and Implications for Prevention and Treatment. American Psychologist, 2008;63, 111-128


Help prevent child victimization

Many assume that children at risk for victimization are neglected or from dysfunctional homes. However, all children, even those from supportive families, may be at risk of victimization. Encourage your child to come to you immediately if anyone makes him or her feel uncomfortable online or makes overtures to meet in person.

Signs an online predator may be connecting with your child
  • Your child becomes withdrawn and isolated from family and friends.
  • You find inappropriate material on the computer.
  • Your child receives mail, money, or gifts from unknown people.
  • You see unknown phone numbers when reviewing the phone bill.
What to do if your child is victimized
  • Make it clear that the victimization is not his or her fault.
  • Save all evidence of victimization, such as e-mails or instant message conversations.
  • Contact your local law-enforcement agency.
  • Make a report to the CyberTipline® at or 1-800-THE-LOST® and include all information available.

Discussion Starters

Start a discussion with your child
  • Who do you usually talk to online?
  • Do you trust the people that you meet online? Why or why not?
  • What could happen if you meet in person with someone you have only known online?
  • Have you ever met anyone online who has offered you gifts?
  • Who do you talk to when you have a problem? Would you feel comfortable talking to me?