Introduction:- The internet is a vast and diverse space, offering numerous opportunities for communication, learning, and entertainment. Unfortunately, it also harbors a dark side: online predators who use the anonymity and ease of access to the internet to prey on vulnerable individuals, particularly children and teenagers.
As such, it is crucial to be aware of the red flags that can signal a potential online predator and take action to report any incidents that may occur. In this blog, we will explore some of the key red flags to watch out for and the steps to take when an incident is suspected.
Red Flags to Watch Out For
Online predators often use several tactics to gain the trust of their victims, including flattery, fake promises, and sometimes even gifts. However, several red flags can indicate that an individual may be an online predator. These include:
- Requesting personal information: Online predators may ask for personal information, such as name, age, phone number, or address, early in a conversation. This behaviour is a major red flag as it can indicate an attempt to gather information for nefarious purposes.
- Requesting private conversations: Online predators may also try to move conversations from public forums to private chats, such as social media direct messages, instant messages, or phone calls. This tactic can allow the predator to engage in more explicit or inappropriate conversations without fear of being discovered.
- Using sexually explicit language: Another significant red flag is the use of sexually explicit language, especially by an individual who claims to be an adult communicating with a child. This behaviour is a precursor to grooming or attempting to solicit inappropriate photos or videos.
- Sending unsolicited images: Online predators may also send unsolicited images, including sexual images, to their victims. This inappropriate behavior can indicate an attempt to groom or manipulate the victim.
Reporting Online Predator Incidents
If you suspect that an individual may be an online predator, it is essential to report the incident to the appropriate authorities immediately. The following are steps you can take to report an incident:
Save all communication: If you have any messages or other evidence of the interaction with the potential predator, save them immediately. This documentation can serve as evidence when reporting the incident to authorities.
Report to the platform: If the interaction occurred on a social media platform or another website, report the incident to the platform’s support team or abuse hotline. Many social media platforms have dedicated teams that handle online predator incidents.
Contact the child helpline number 1098
National police helpline number 100
Contact law enforcement: Contact law enforcement immediately if you believe that a child is in immediate danger or the predator has made threats or requests for explicit images. The police can investigate the situation and take appropriate action to protect the victim.
Speak to a trusted adult: If you are a minor who an online predator has targeted, it is essential to speak to a trusted adult, such as a parent, teacher, or counsellor. They can provide you with guidance and support as you navigate the incident and help you report it to the authorities.
If parents suspect cybercrime against their children, they should take the following steps:
- Stay calm and support the child.
- Document any evidence of the cybercrime, such as screenshots or chat logs.
- Report the incident to the relevant authorities, such as the police or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).
- Educate their child about internet safety and encourage them to speak up if they feel uncomfortable or threatened online.
- Consider using parental control software and monitoring their child’s online activity.
Parents must take immediate action to protect their children and prevent further harm. furthermore, it has been noticed that after Covid-19, children spend more time on screen, be it for studies, social media, or online gaming, adversely affecting their health physically and mentally. looking at the situation, the government has taken a few initiatives towards it by generating grievance redressal under Intermediary Rules for Online gaming and social media. few important points the parents must know are here,
The Intermediary Rules for Online Gaming and Social Media in India, as notified on February 25, 2021, require intermediaries such as online gaming platforms and social media companies to provide a grievance redressal mechanism for users.
Here are the key provisions related to grievance redressal under the Intermediary Rules:
Grievance Officer: Intermediaries are required to appoint a grievance officer who shall be responsible for the redressal of grievances received by the intermediary. The contact details of the grievance officer must be prominently displayed on the intermediary’s website or mobile application.
- Complaints: Users can file complaints with the grievance officer in case of any content-related grievance on the platform. The complaints can be related to any of the following: (a) the infringement of the user’s rights in relation to the content, (b) non-compliance with the intermediary’s obligations under the Intermediary Rules, and (c) any other complaint.
- Timeframe for Redressal: The intermediary must acknowledge the complaint within twenty-four hours and resolve it within fifteen days from the date of receipt.
- Complaints Portal: Intermediaries are also required to set up a complaints portal, which will facilitate the filing of complaints by users. The complaints portal should be easily accessible and user-friendly.
- Appeal: If a user is not satisfied with the grievance officer’s decision, they can approach an appellate authority, which the government will designate.
It is important to note that the Intermediary Rules also require intermediaries to establish a robust mechanism for tracing the originator of unlawful content. Additionally, intermediaries are required to disable access to unlawful content upon receipt of a court or government order. Failure to comply with these provisions can lead to penalties, including losing intermediary status and legal action.
Conclusion: To conclude, it can be said that the internet can be a valuable tool, but it can also expose vulnerable individuals to online predators. By being aware of the red flags and taking action to report any incidents, we can help protect ourselves and those around us from these dangers. Remember, if you suspect that someone is an online predator, it is always better to err on the side of caution and report the incident to the appropriate authorities immediately.
Some safety tips the children must follow while using social media or playing online games:
- Never accept strangers’ requests, and do not share personal information.
- Never share OTP with anyone.
- If someone bullies you, share it with a trusted Adult.
- Do not share passwords with anyone.
- Always log out while using someone else’s laptop or mobile phone.
Author: Ms. Tanushree Saxena, Trainer, CyberPeace Foundation