There’s a chance that your child may meet people online who aren’t who they say they are. Grooming is a word used to describe people befriending children in order to take advantage of them for sexual purposes. Many parents worry about online grooming so it’s important to talk to your children about how to stay safe.
So what is online grooming? Online grooming occurs when mostly an adult befriends a kid online without revealing his age, to gain the trust and confidence of this kid with an intention of physically or sexually causing harm.
How groomers work
In most countries like USA, UK, Canada, Australia and Netherlands, it is a crime to groom an underage kid. But this does not stop these perpetrators – groomers. Online groomers ‘feed’ on kids online via chat rooms, social media chat apps, game rooms and forums. Their initial contact is mostly on a very friendly level as with normal friends. These groomers or predators begin to take elevated likeness to the kid. Most often, groomers know general kids’ trends – music, games, sports, clothing etc. All this is aimed at getting a connection.
When the connection is established they move to the next level of gaining trust. How do they do that? One of the tactics they use is listening. Teens most often feel misunderstood. Hence these predators listen to all their worries and sympathize with then. This intent leads to trust. They then make these kids dependent on them through constant communications. And this can take from weeks to years.
The next step is testing the waters. These predators start introducing sex jokes, flattering, sexting etc. This is to check if their soon to be victims are ready based on the kid’s receptive levels. Groomers’ sole aim is to reach a confidence level where the kid is solely dependent on them for advice and other emotional needs to be able to schedule a face to face meeting. Once that is achieved, they then go ahead to molest these kids and do other sickening things to them.
How grooming happens
Grooming happens both online and in person. Groomers will hide their true intentions and may spend a long time gaining a child’s trust. Groomers may try to gain the trust of a whole family to allow them to be left alone with a child and if they work with children they may use similar tactics with their colleagues.
Groomers do this by:
- pretending to be someone they are not, for example saying they are the same age online
- offering advice or understanding
- buying gifts
- giving the child attention
- using their professional position or reputation
- taking them on trips, outings or holidays.
Some signs to look out for to be sure your kid is not being groomed
- Kids switching to a new screen whenever you come near the computer.
- Your kids are being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
- They have a sudden change in their clothes – revealing more of themselves
- Change in diction – using explicit language that you wouldn’t expect them to know
- Having less time with their usual friends
- They are appeared controlled by their phone
Most of the above signs are common with teens, but it is also good to be particular when these changes are sudden.
Keeping your child safe from groomers and other online dangers
The most important thing is for a parent to educate their children about online safety. Parents should teach their children how to be SMART online:
S – Safe. Safe here means kids should be very careful giving out their personal information- home address, school, date of birth, phone number to online strangers.
M – Meeting. Kids should never meet up with any online friend without the knowledge of their parents.
A – Accepting. They should not accept any IM chat request, or private room chat request or even open an email attachment from any contact they do not know.
R – Reliable. Not all information on the Internet is reliable and not everyone out there on the Internet is who they say they are.
T – Tell. Kids should tell their parent if they are not comfortable with anything they see on the Internet.
In addition, parents can use the SpyHide parental control app to monitor the websites their kids’ visit, the chat rooms they go on and read the messages they receive or send in these various chat rooms. With this, you get to know which online-friend is actually taking interest in your kid to help you make a better decision pertaining to their online friends.
With the SpyHide Mobile Monitoring App you get to know all the top social messaging apps that are monitored, you get to read the messages and know the sender and message details. Should your kid be coerced to even browse incognito, you get to see all typed messages on the keyboard of your kid’s device.
Your kids are your investments and every good parent will go the extra mile to protect their kid.