In this digital age where smartphone usage, online gaming and Internet is becoming an unavoidable side of teen life. It is becoming more important than ever for parents to understand online grooming and keep a check on their kids Internet activity.
What is Online Grooming?
The term has been around since 2011, but still parents aren’t aware about it and how it affects kids. Therefore, here we explain what is online grooming or cyber grooming, how it works and affects teenagers?
Grooming is an online way of building an intimate and emotional relationship with minor with the intention to gain trust, arrange personal meeting and take advantage of them for sexual purpose.
How it Works?
Groomer sounds classy, but truly Groomer is a sexual predator targeting innocent kids. Grooming begins in a friendly manner and can happen both in person and online. Most common ways of targeting potential victim is through social networking, messages, emails, chat room, or online gaming as they allow communication between users.
Groomer uses fake details like profile name, image, age, and others to establish a connection with the child. Once likelihood to which the child will respond is established they offer gifts, invite them to nice places and even claim that they understand the victim, what the teenager is going through and would like to help. Groomer can be male, female, old, young, known, unknown anyone.
It takes some time to build the level of trust, once set up they try to isolate the victim and start having sexual conversations. After a certain point they even ask the minor to share explicit content. Groomer brain washes the child in such a manner that the teenager believes what they are doing is right. Moreover, groomer addresses the kid as their ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ and sometimes to gain control they even intimidate teenager by saying they will share the explicit content with their family, parent, and friends.
What is the aim of grooming?
The aim of online grooming is to sexually exploit the kid. It can happen in two ways:
- Online: trick the kid to send explicit images or via sensual activity over the webcam.
- Personal meetings
Signs of online grooming
It isn’t easy to identify if your child is being groomed as every situation is different. Online groomers are good at impersonating and they go to great length to their identity. This means it will be difficult to know if someone is a groomer or a simple online friend. But if someone is asking you to share explicit content or do something carnal then it should ring alarm bells:
- Sends too many messages via social networking sites, chat room, messaging and other means.
- Asks not to share the conversation with anyone not even with friends or family.
- Tries to know more about you like who uses the computer, what will happen if your parents caught you etc.
- Suddenly starts talking indifferently like they might ask you about your physical appearance, if you have been kissed and others.
- Ask you to share personal information like your home address, school name, about your friends and others.
- Might try to convince you into sending explicit content by saying they’ll do something to themselves if you don’t send images.
How parents can know if their child is a victim of online grooming?
By paying attention to child’s behavior and by noticing following changes in child parents can know if their kid is a victim of online grooming:
- Secretive behavior about their online activity.
- Older boyfriend or girlfriend.
- Child seems distracted as if something is weighing on them.
- Suddenly they have new things like clothes, phones, expensive jewelry that they can’t explain.
- Mood swings, always connected to phone or social media.
Ways to prevent Cyber Grooming
Cyber grooming is not something that cannot be avoided. By imparting proper knowledge to the kids and by keeping your knowledge up-to-date we can stay away from being a victim to online. Here are certain ways that can help both kids and parents prevent cyber grooming.
- Make your child understand who they should be contacting and who not when they start using social media.
- Ensure kid understands importance and usage of social media. It is used to connect and stay connected with people you already know.
- Explain and tech them why they cannot trust everyone they speak with online.
- Keep a check on your child’s social media profile and ask them about the platform they are using.
- Befriend with them so that they can openly share things with you in spite of hiding.
- Make sure you know who you child is interacting with and what the conversation is about.
- Build a rapport and trust with your child so that he can come to you if there are any concerns.
- Make sure you secure your computer
- Set strong and complex passwords for online accounts. Also change them from time to time.
- Do not share any personal information with anyone ever.
- Do not provide your personal email address to anyone, before doing so ask all sort of questions like why you should share the id, what the person can do with your id, why does he need your id and other similar questions.
- Supervise your child in chatrooms.
- Limit the amount of personal information you share online on social networking sites.
- Make your child aware about cybercrime like online grooming, cyberbullying, cyberstalking and others.
- From time to time ask your child about their online friends, what they talk and what all information they share.
In the end we can only say grooming is not only limited to online, kids even get victimized to offline grooming. Above-mentioned pointers can help you identify offline grooming too. Also, in major cases it has been found that groomers are not strangers they are actually someone the victim knows. This means you cannot easily identify the groomer if the person is online. Therefore, it is up to parents, teachers, and person in authority to look out for the signs of grooming, fake social profiles and protect kids from being a victim.