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What you need to know about online grooming

online grooming

Crimes against children continue to make headlines in the newspapers. In fact, any kind of child abuse (physical or emotional) has become so common that it’s a part of the “news” on a regular basis. Despite that, many parents and teachers still struggle to fully understand what online grooming is, its effect on their children, or how to prevent it.

We will delve into the details of online grooming, but let’s look at how you can identify whether your child has become a victim of online grooming. Generally, most children who are victimised find themselves addicted to the internet or social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. You will notice that your child is using the internet excessively and unreasonably. Also, ask yourself:

  • Has your child become more secretive about who they are talking to online?
  • Has your child engaged in any sexual behavior online or via text, chat or webcam?
  • Have they got any electronic devices/gifts that they may not have been able to obtain themselves?

What is Online Grooming?

Online grooming is the process by which an adult with an inappropriate sexual interest in children will approach a child online, to foster a relationship with the intent to meet them in person and intentionally cause harm.

The ultimate goal of an internet predator is to encourage children to participate in sexual activities. This may include: exposing themselves on a webcam, emailing suggestive photographs of themselves or meeting the predator in person, becoming the victim of direct sexual abuse.

According to the European online grooming project there are three types of online groomers:

Typology of online groomers

Intimacy-seeking

The groomers in this group do not have any previous convictions for sexual offending, but are known to have contacted young people for a consenting relationship. They do not have any indecent images of children and spend a significant time talking to children online before developing an intimate relationship.

Adaptable style

They have previous convictions for sexual offending against children. Unlike the group above, they do not attempt to build any kind of a ‘relationship’ with children. The key feature of adaptable groomers is that they adapt their identity and grooming style according to how a child is presented online and react to their initial contact. This group is also known to keep hidden folders, extra phones and they are very careful about making any development, it’s either quickly or slowly.

Hyper-sexual

These types of groomers maintain a record of indecent images of children, adult pornography and make significant online contact with other sexual offenders. They adopt different identities and conceal their identity on any social media platform. Their contact with children is highly sexual and escalates very quickly.

Typology of children victimised

  • Children who need attention and affection
  • Complicated relationship with parents
  • Seeking ‘love’ online – they often believe they have true relationships with a groomer
  • Resist disclosure – they want to continue the relationship

Tactics groomers use to con your children

Tactic Intent
“Let’s go private.” Engage in private conversation through a separate chat room
“Where’s your computer in the house.” Determine if parents or caregivers are in close proximity
“Who’s your favorite band? Designer? Film?” To discover what types of gifts to offer
“I know someone who can get you a modelling job.” Flattery
“You seem sad. What’s bothering you?” Show sympathy to encourage child to confide in groomer
“I know a way you can earn money fast. You don’t have to depend on your parents.” To tempt children to earn their own money, especially if the groomer understands that the family is in financial difficulties
“What’s your phone number?” To establish an offline contact
“You’re the love of my life.” To make children feel special

Is your internet security up to date?

We must begin to re-think the way our children are using the ‘internet’ and ‘mobile phones’ these days. It is startling to note that the number of children using mobile phones in the UK have risen significantly. According to a study conducted by Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre, UK – Smart phone ownership has increased by 21% among 12-15 year olds in just a year. With built-in cameras, these devices and a new generation of apps are giving children the ability to easily communicate with strangers online and share images on the move.

Talking about why it’s important to educate children on e-safety, Claire Lilly, safer internet lead at the NSPCC, said: “Children may be targeted because of their vulnerability but any child can be a victim. What is apparent is that parents’ and carers’ can make that vital difference in whether or not a child becomes a victim of these ruthless predators online.”

Lilly also added: “The internet is part and parcel of young lives and most can’t remember a world before it existed. We cannot put the genie back in the bottle, but we can talk to young people and educate them on staying safe online just as we do about stranger danger or drugs.”

We’re here to ensure your children are safe and secure online, contact us to find out more about how we can help.

Mark Kingham
Mark Kingham

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