It’s the new stranger danger. Technology has created new opportunities for sexual predators online to target our children. It’s unthinkable, but every year thousands of children become victims to online predators.  According to the IWF (Internet Watch Foundation), there has been a disturbing rise of child cyber abuse. Reports of child pornograpthy have grown 2000% since 2013.  One in four girls and one in six boys will be a victim of child sexual abuse. Parents must be alerted to the reality that this is not rare. In fact, dangerously common. The majority of Internet-initiated sex crimes against children are groomed and initiated in chat rooms. So what is grooming? And how do predators lure children?  Grooming is the action by a paedophile of preparing a child for a meeting, especially via an internet chat room, with the intention of committing a sexual offence. According to the Internet Crimes Against Children, there are six steps to grooming the child. 
  1. First they Appear Familiar, by setting fake accounts and creating conversations that are in trend with the child’s age group. Many predators pose as children or even of the opposite gender. Predators can also be female. 
  2. Second, is to Develop Trust, by becoming a listener to the victim and preying on their insecurities. 
  3. They then Establish Secrecy in which the predator is able to control the grooming process. 
  4. They Erode Barriers by exposing the child to pornography then asking for their inappropriate photos. 
  5. Once the predator has information and images of the victim they use Direct Intimidation threatening the child if they do not comply with their wishes. 
  6. And finally Meeting the Child  is the ultimate goal with the predator intending to sexually abuse the victim.  
Unfortunately many parents are in the dark when it comes to their child’s online activities.  As parents we need to be acutely aware of who our children are talking to. Monitoring your child’s phone usage from their camera, web browsing history, games to social media conversations is crucial. We can no longer stick our heads in the sand whilst snapchat, tiktok and gaming are consuming our kids.  With these disturbing findings, what proactive measures can parents take to protect our minors.  First keep all screen devices in high-traffic areas in your home (such as the living room) so the screen is not concealed from view. Regularly access your child’s social media and gaming sites to see what they are posting and who they are communicating with. Consider installing filtering and monitoring software on digital devices. Conceal Information. Many children are unaware of online dangers. Teach your children to never share passwords or personal information about themselves to others online. Instill Modesty. Modesty must be embraced in children from an early age. Having the conversation with both our daughters and sons about proper dress and interactions with the opposite gender. Modesty is not just measured upon dress-code but also behaviour and interactions with others. This includes online activities. 
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ said, “Verily, there is a hallmark of every religion. And the hallmark of Islam is modesty” (Ibn Majah).
Having frank conversations about body safety. what body parts are prohibited to show others in person and online. Equipping them with the knowledge of what kinds of interactions are ‘okay’ and ‘not okay’, and when they should let you know of any potential dangers.  It is important that your child knows they can come to you with issues and you will validate those concerns and not judge them too harshly. With those lines of communication open, your child may tell you something about what they are doing on social media that could alert you to the fact that they are being groomed. If your child does approach you with any concerns, please take them seriously.  Child psychologists warn parents that false reports are highly, highly unlikely. Children don’t invent stories about sexual abuse. It does not exist within the realms of their imaginations nor is part of their fitra. Terrible things can happen if we believe they are not possible.  And lastly, Duaa. Duaa is miraculous. The Prophet ﷺ told us the dua of the parent is accepted. Call out to Al-Muhaymin (The Protector), the One who ensures the well-being and protection of His creation. Parenting in the tech world is not easy. It is challenging as parents to find a balance between keeping them safe and equipping them in the digital future. However, remember we must take ownership of being the parent as we are responsible for their well-being and safety.  Persistence and patience is key. May Allah ﷻ protect our children from all forms of evil.