In the last 6 months, IWF found that 38% of reports on child sexual abuse online were “self-produced”. This means the child is alone and is “groomed” into taking explicit images or videos of themselves, and sharing with others.
Yes, this might be terrifying for parents, that’s why as soon as you allow your children to go online, don’t forget to teach them about online grooming, signs of groomers, and how to protect themselves.
Here are our top 10 FAQs about online grooming that you might need!
10 FAQ about online grooming
What is online grooming?
Online grooming is when a person tries to build emotional relationships with your children for sexual purposes. Online grooming usually happens on social media platforms and gaming sites.
Online grooming is complicated due to the anonymity of the internet. A sexual predator may be a 50-year-old man but by faking a social media profile, misusing a legitimate internet site, he could appear online as a 12-year-old schoolgirl.
Who are the victims of online sexual predators?
All ages can be targets for criminals.
However, children, teenagers are particularly easy targets for online sexual predators because they are young and yet to fully understand the seriousness of the world out there. So the predators can easily trick, manipulate and intimidate the victim.
As young people and teenagers who are looking for ways to connect and make friends with others online, they can accept friend requests indiscriminately, enjoy flattering comments, etc. groomers can take advantage of these behaviors.
Where do groomers usually target children?
Online groomers will find and target children on sites and platforms that are popular with young people.
For example social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat. Online groomers usually target many young children at one time by sending mass friend requests to them.
For online forums and online games sites, groomers may start a conversation through built-in chat rooms, complementing them, pretending to share their problems to build an emotional relationship, and asking them to continue talking on another private messaging platform.
So if my children don’t use social media, or I don’t allow them to use it, will they be safe from online sexual predators?
If your child doesn’t use social media, they may be at a lower risk of being a victim of online grooming.
However, as we mentioned above, online sexual predators don’t just target children via social media platforms, but chat rooms, online forums, gaming sites and dating apps.
My kids love live-streaming, is there any risk of it?
According to Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), among 2,000 cases where children had been groomed into live-streaming video of themselves:
- 98% of images found were of children aged 13 and under
- 28% were aged 10 or under
- The youngest victim was 3
Those images/videos appear in a bedroom or a bathroom. As no adult was present in the images, the IWF believes that children were being ‘directed’ to abuse themselves.
As a result, online grooming can happen to any child who has access to live-streaming technology.
What are the misconceptions about online grooming?
That is groomers always pretend to be children, and grooming is a lengthy process.
That’s not true!!
According to a UK study by Psychologist Cristina Izura, online groomers rarely pose as children and can take only 18 minutes to successfully arrange to meet. It is “alarmingly fast”!
The study also showed that there is not one kind of online groomer but different profiles that groom children in different ways. Those sexual predators use language to build trust, desensitize them towards sexual behaviors.
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How do groomers target my children?
Different profiles use different tactics to groom your children, but here is a typical process that groomers communicate and interact with their victims:
- Groomers use fake profiles to connect and build trust with children on social media or gaming sites. They may pretend to be children.
- They build connections by giving compliments on your children (appearance, personality, etc.), pretending to listen to their problems, frequently talking to them, showing great care to them, etc.
3. Once they have successfully built trust, they may encourage your children to:
- Exchange sexually explicit images/videos
- Livestream while being nude
- Engage in online sex roles/conversations
- Meet in real life and have sex with children
- Achieve some financial goals (they may use children’s sensitive content to trade to others)
How can I know if my children are being groomed online?
There are 3 reasons why it is difficult to recognize if children are being groomed.
- Online grooming happens when children are at home.
- Due to a survey from the London Grid for Learning, 2 in 5 young children had never told anyone about the worst thing that had happened to them online.
- Groomers may warn children not to talk to anyone about it.
However, don’t give up, according to Internet Matters, there are alarming signs you need to be aware of as this might indicate that your children are the victims of grooming:
- They want to spend more and more time online
- They tend to be secretive about who they are talking to online and what sites they visit
- They quickly switch screens when you come near their computer/tablet/phone
- They tend to be emotionally volatile. For example: get angry when you touch their phones
- They use a sexual language you wouldn’t expect them to know
How can I teach my children how to recognize signs of groomers?
The NCMEC report summarizes the ways that sexual attackers often target children:
- Involving children into sex-related conversations or role-playing with sex-related characters
- Ask children to take and send sensitive pictures/videos of themselves
- Develop a positive relationship with your child by praising your child’s appearance and body, discussing what both of you have in common, or taking actions that show interest/empathy, “like” and comment on their child’s social media posts, etc.
- Sexual attackers send their own pornographic images to children
- Pretending to be younger than your child, possibly by lying and sometimes through perjury when registering for an online account
- Ask the children to exchange pictures back and forth in exchange for accomplishing their goal such as money, gift cards, etc.; promise to buy children something they like; even alcohol, drugs, tobacco, and other necessities such as lodging, transportation, or food.
How can I help my children protect themselves from online grooming?
- Know your children’s online behaviors: Where they usually interact with their friends, how do they connect with others, what information do they usually share with others?
- Don’t let your kids freely use the Internet. Allowing children with unrestricted and unsupervised access to webcams and mobile phone cameras is a serious threat to children.
- Explain why and how groomers target young children: You can use the information we indicated above!
- Frequently remind them of digital footprints: Everything they share will remain forever online. The other person will keep and share the image even if they promise not to do that. The photos will be shared widely and stay forever on the Internet.
- Ensure their social media privacy: Teach them how to keep your child safe is on social media, making their accounts private or modifying their privacy settings so they can control who can contact them.
- Create an environment where your child can share anything with you they feel unsafe. A good relationship is the starting point for all. One of the best ways to protect children from online predators.
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