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 Warning signs

Solicitation by an online predator

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has compiled a list of warning signs that can indicate when a child might be at risk online. These warning signs can be found in the FBI's Parent's Guide to Internet Safety.

Time spent online

Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night. Most children who fall victim to child predators spend large amounts of time online, particularly in chat rooms. Child predators can be online at any time, but most work during the day and spend their evenings online trying to locate and lure children.


You find pornography on your child's computer. Pornography is often used in the sexual victimization of children. Adults who are seeking to exploit children often supply their potential victims with pornography as a means of opening sexual discussions and for seduction. Child pornography may be used in an attempt to show the child victim that sex between children and adults is "normal." Keep in mind that a child might hide pornographic material by storing it on a disk, especially if other family members use the computer.

Phone use

Your child receives phone calls from someone you don't know or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize. Predators enjoy exchanging messages with children via computer. However, in most cases, they also want to talk to them on the telephone and they often engage in "phone sex" with the children. At some point, they will usually attempt to set up a face-to-face meeting for real sex.

Predators can also use these telephone calls to learn more about the children they are pursuing. If a child is hesitant to give a phone number, predators can use caller ID to determine the telephone number of the child who is calling. Some even obtain toll-free numbers so their potential victims can call without their parents finding out. Sometimes a child will be instructed to call collect. In each of these instances an adult who is seeking to exploit children can get a child's phone number, and such a predator may be able to use the telephone number to determine the child's full name and home address.

Unsolicited mail and gifts

Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know. As part of the grooming process, it is common for predators to send letters, photographs, and gifts to their potential victims. Some have even sent airline tickets to children, so the child can travel across the country to meet them.

Concealing computer content

Your child hides what they are doing on the computer. When a child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor, they are attempting to conceal something. A child looking at pornographic images or having sexually explicit conversations does not want you to see it on the screen.

Behavior change

Your child becomes withdrawn from the family. Adults who are seeking to exploit children work hard to drive a wedge between a child and their family. Any problem that a child has at home can be manipulated to make that child feel isolated from his or her loved ones, and children under the influence of a predator may pull away from their families. Children may also become withdrawn after they have been victimized sexually.

Using a different online account

Your child is using another email account. Even if your child already has an email account, a child predator might set up another account so they can have more privacy when they communicate. Some online entities offer free email services, so email accounts can be created quickly and without cost. If your child is using an account other than the one you may have authorized, he or she may be communicating with someone who wants to keep the relationship secret. Keep in mind that your child could still meet and exchange messages with an adult while online at a friend's house, the library, or at school.

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