Online grooming may occur by people forming relationships with children and pretending to be their friend. They do this by finding out information about their potential victim and trying to establish the likelihood of the child telling. They try to find out as much as they can about the child’s family and social networks and, if they think it is ‘safe enough’, will then try to isolate their victim and may use flattery and promises of gifts, or threats and intimidation in order to achieve some control.
It is easy for ‘groomers’ to find child victims online. They generally use chatrooms which are focussed around young people’s interests. They often pretend to be younger and may even change their gender. Many give a false physical description of themselves which may bear no resemblance to their real appearance – some send pictures of other people, pretending that it is them. Groomers may also seek out potential victims by looking through personal websites such as social networking sites.
How is the grooming of children different online?
In many circumstances, grooming online is faster and anonymous and results in children trusting an online ‘friend’ more quickly than someone they had just met ‘face to face’. Those intent on sexually harming children can easily access information about them and they are able to hide their true identity, age and gender. People who groom children may not be restricted by time or accessibility to a child as they would be in the ‘real world’.
Keep your children safe online
Teach your children the five key Childnet SMART rules which remind young people to be SMART online. You should go through these tips with your children.
S – SAFE Keep safe by being careful not to give out personal information – such as your name, email, phone number, home address, or school name – to people who you don’t know online. Use Parental / Privacy settings on all apps, social media platforms. Ensure location services are turned off on all platforms!
M – MEETING Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous. Only do so with your parents’/carers’ permissions & when they can be present.
A – ACCEPTING Accepting e-mails, IM messages or opening files from people you don’t know or trust can be dangerous – they may contain viruses or nasty messages.
R – RELIABLE Someone online may be lying about who they are, and information you find on the internet may not be reliable.
T – TELL Your parent, carer or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried.