According to ThinkUknow, “Grooming is a process used to prepare a child for sexual abuse. An offender’s aim when grooming will be to gain access to a child and build a relationship with that child. Grooming can take many different forms, from one off contact which may include sexual advances, to a series of events over time.” It may start with a predator perusing social media platforms and chat rooms to identify a vulnerable or uninformed child. These predators may groom a child to such a point that they may send revealing pictures of themselves or they might even go as far as to convince the child to meet in person.
Through online platforms, such as social media sites and chat rooms, it is easier for an offender to lie and potentially gain enough trust to have face to face contact with a child. By using these platforms, offenders can share images or videos relating to their ‘common interests’ and build a relationship away from adult supervision. It is known that these predators will be patient in their quest for the child’s trust, whether it be weeks or even months of chatting and sharing music, images and jokes. Being ‘behind the screen’ gives a predator the opportunity to lie about his/her age, hobbies and intentions and in turn establish an artificial relationship with an unsuspecting child.
There are various ways in which a predator might start to build a relationship with a child. They might express similar interests or hobbies, or they might offer comfort, advice and attention to children who lack self-confidence.
What can you do to keep your child safe?
It is important to remember not to keep your children off social media sites as a whole, children are growing up in a digital age where it is essential to know the ins and outs of the world of Web2.0. But, before you send your children online, take a look through these guidelines to help keep them safe online:
• Communicate with your child openly about which social media platforms or chat rooms they are active on and ensure that their privacy settings are turned on.
• Express interest in their profiles, if you see something inappropriate, tell them why and what the future consequences may be. Remember that they are learning.
• Be involved with their online worlds, this doesn’t mean stalking or liking every picture and status they post, but just be aware of what the site allows for and what your child is doing on the site, and ensure privacy settings are active.
• Warn your children about the dangers of talking to strangers as well as revealing personal information online.
• Set boundaries around when and where your children are allowed online. A practical example of this may be that he or she is only allowed online for 30 minutes every day and they must be online in the lounge or dining room where you can keep an eye on their activity.
• Know online ‘lingo’ such as POS (Parent Over Shoulder) and LMIRL (Let’s Meet in Real Life) in order to keep a careful eye on your child’s activity.