Our children sometimes repeat the same mistakes.
Zac is now 12, and I had hoped he had learned his lesson the last time this happened, but distressingly it happened again.
Since the first incident, I have been vigilant in checking his phone. There is a period each afternoon when I am working, and Zac is home alone with his older brother. He still games, but with limits.
I was recently going through his phone and decided to check the trash bin in his photos. What I found really shocked me. More compromising photos!It was clear when I took a more in-depth look at WhatsApp and Snapchat that he had been lured from the game he was playing to both these apps by the predator, who had proceeded to groom him over a period of several months. At first Zac was saying no — over and over and over again, but the predator was manipulative and persistent. He eventually offered Zac gaming money and Zac relented.
How do I feel?
Upset, disappointed, and angry, but I understand my son is a victim and clearly still does not understand the seriousness of sharing photos. I have to remember that he is a child.
I have not yet approached Zac with what I found. For the time being, I have shut down the Wi-Fi at home. I plan to speak with him soon. I will not get angry with him, but will sit him down and have a serious conversation with him. I will place further limits on what he can do online, and I know that for a while he will be angry with me, but I will remind him it is my role as his parent to keep him safe.And, I plan to report this.
What this has taught me is how manipulative these creatures are. They are relentless. The moment a child engages in a chat with someone they do not know online, they are in danger.
It has also taught me that children are just that: children. They are vulnerable when faced with these monsters. It is not an equal playing field, and they can easily get duped. They are also impulsive and do not necessarily understand the gravity of what happens when they respond or, worse, send photos.
This has been yet another learning curve. I was trying to do the right thing and was trying to be vigilant, but I realise now that I need to do more.
My message to parents is one I've said before, and one I'll say again:
No matter how safe you think your child is, or how responsible you think they are, never be complacent with their online behaviour because all it takes is one person to figure out how to manipulate them and get them wrapped around their finger. Predators are masters at their own game and our unsuspecting children can easily become their puppets.
* names have been altered for confidentiality reasons.