e-Safety and user monitoring solutions for education and the enterprise

Teaching students to recognise grooming

Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

The Sex Education Forum conducted a survey of more than 2,000 students, aged between 11 to 25 years. It was discovered that:

  • 50% of the respondents did not know how to get help if they were abused
  • 53% of the respondents could not recognise grooming for sexual exploitation
  • 44% were unaware about abusive relationships
  • 34% were clueless about sexual consent

This lack of knowledge was attributed to the gaps in their sex and relationships education in schools. So, how can teachers bridge this gap and ensure the safety of their students?

Bridging the gap and empowering students

1. What is grooming?

The first step to help children recognise grooming is to define the term itself. For most people, including children, the word ‘grooming’ would be interpreted by its common meaning ‘the things that you do to make your appearance clean and neat, for example brushing your hair, or the things that you do to keep an animal’s hair or fur clean and neat.

However, it is essential for children to understand that this word has an alternative meaning. Our previous article defines online grooming as “… 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.”

This can be a difficult subject to broach with children, therefore, the right balance of tact and honesty is extremely important.

Teachers need to educate children that groomers come in all forms and could be anyone – from a guiding figure in their lives to a stranger they meet online.

2. All it takes is a few tricks and some time

When teaching children about grooming, a related concept is the process groomers use to deceive them. Children should be taught that groomers will not be upfront about their intentions. Their manipulation is a gradual process. And this involves paying attention to that student, making them feel special. This is done by way of flattery, expensive gifts, and being sympathetic. These tactics make the child believe that no one else can understand them better than the groomer. The result is that they start trusting the groomer.

3. Sharing a few secrets…

Once this trust has been established, the groomers use a new tactic to influence and control their victims – secrecy. Children are fooled into believing that something valuable is being shared with them. In return, they are asked to share something of value with the groomer. Over time, the groomer develops an inappropriate relationship with the child, terming the conversations as their “special secret”.

Teaching children to differentiate between good secrets and bad secrets is therefore essential. A secret which makes them feel anxious, fearful or uncomfortable should not be kept from their parents or teachers.

Developing creative lesson plans to aid their understanding…

Teaching children about a sensitive topic like grooming can be tricky. Students need to be careful with everyone, but at the same time, you don’t want them to avoid developing trusting relationships with adults.

Lily Horton, from Loudmouth Education and Training, mentions an interesting class activity to discuss online grooming. You can ask your students to work together and create a realistic character.  Give the character attributes, behavioural tendencies, and a name. Once the character is developed, you can read passages from her diary, followed by an interactive question and answer session.

For example – “I’ve met this guy through Facebook and he is so cute! His name is Tom and he is 16. Though we haven’t met up yet, we have been messaging each other for weeks! My mates find this whole situation funny but I think we are really falling for each other!”

Later, you could ask questions such as:

  • What makes the character feel that she is falling for Tom?
  • Why do you think her friends find this ‘whole situation’ funny?
  • Do you think the character should meet Tom? Why/why not?

The next excerpt can be:

“I met Tom today. He was sweet and caring. But he lied about his age. Though I must say he made up for his mistake by giving me a very pretty and expensive necklace. He made our evening special and even dropped me home. I think I’ll excuse his lie. Excited to meet him again!”

You could then ask:

  • Do you think the girl should meet Tom again? Why/why not?
  • Should she be concerned that he lied about his age? Why/why not?

You can later continue by saying that she has fallen in love with him and they have started a relationship. She has stopped seeing her friends as Tom thinks they are a bad influence. He continues to buy expensive gifts for her and encourages her to push boundaries and try new things like drinking alcohol and watching pornography.

You can ask questions like:

  • Do you think their relationship is healthy? Why/why not?
  • What do you think the girl should do?

The latter aspects of the story can deal with how Tom has managed to isolate her completely from her friends, how he has started asking for sexual favours and coercing her into sexual activity online in return for his expensive gifts.

While using such lesson plans, you can summarise that this entire process is called grooming and that some signs can be spotted early on. Discussing such situations in the class will help students to better identify signs.

Students are now computer literate from an early age and need to be safeguarded while accessing online resources. Have you considered the benefits of installing cyber safety measures? Connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn to know more!

All you need to know about e-Safety

Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

With children as young as three using computers today, it is vitally important that e-Safety is implemented as early as possible. So, what exactly is e-Safety and why is it so important?

 e-Safety is about helping children identify the potential dangers of the Internet without deterring them from using it to its best advantage. With the correct e-Safety tools at their fingertips, children will be empowered to identify any unethical behaviour and reduce the likelihood of becoming victims of cyber abuse or bullying.

Enforcing e-Safety among children and encouraging positive habits while interacting online

 Here are a few guidelines parents and teachers could follow to instil e-Safety habits in children. It goes without saying that every situation is unique and therefore you need to decide what is best for you and your child, based on your circumstances.

  • Supervision

It is recommended that children under the age of 12 should be supervised at all times whilst using the Internet. This is the best way to ensure they develop a healthy attitude to using technology in a responsible manner.

  • Setting ground rules

These should be followed every time they are online. These ground rules could include:

  • Never post private information (name, address or telephone number) on any public platform.
  • Never send photos of themselves to anyone they don’t know, and in general, avoid posting photos online until they are old enough.
  • Never give out passwords to anyone, even trusted friends.
  • Never interact with strangers online, let parents/teachers know if they suspect anything is amiss.
  • Always ask permission before installing or downloading anything on the computer to prevent malware that could cause the system to crash or compromise the security of your data.
  • Ensure that your child views what is appropriate for their age

Setting parental filters is the best way to make sure that your children only get access to content that is suitable for their age. These filters block offensive sites and prevent your child from accidentally stumbling upon inappropriate sites. Please click here to find out more about how to protect your child with parental controls.

  • Communicate with your child

Have ongoing discussions with your child about the consequences of irresponsible online behaviour and how it can affect their life. Help them to understand that there is often a thin line between what’s acceptable and what is not and that they need to remain vigilant at all times, to ensure that they are not crossing that line.

If you would like to know more about e-Safety or safeguarding children in the digital space, then join the conversation on Twitter and connect with us on LinkedIn.

How to make the web safer for your children

Web safety
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

From colouring in online pictures of The Octonauts with a virtual paintbrush to surfing the net for homework and school assignments, the Internet has opened up an exciting world of opportunity for children. Innocently or intentionally, they are exposed to the web world. Especially when parents are finishing their household chores or when they are busy working on an assignment. Before they know it, their children are playing online games and are slowly inching their way into the World Wide Web.

Imagine a situation where you are looking up things together (with your child) on the web and an online dating app ad pops up, featuring an inappropriate image of a female model. Would this worry you? Agreed, children wouldn’t necessarily understand it. Unnervingly though, as they get older, they will be curious to explore the ample avenues that the web world offers and clearly, the risks they face will get more serious. But as far as Internet safety goes, do not impose restrictions or ban the Internet – one of the most important things is to keep the conversation going.

Last year, the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, declared there would be a series of new measures to improve the global response to online child sexual exploitation.  He also announced a collaboration between the NCA and GCHQ using the latest cyber techniques to target online offenders and a £50 million global fund to combat violence against children.

However, a recent article highlights the fact that the Government’s promise on implementing a law to tackle online grooming of children has still not come into force, almost two years after it was announced.

Condemning this delay, the NSPCC Chief Executive, Peter Wanless said: “The Government cannot afford to dawdle over something as essential as keeping young people safe online. The police and public have spoken, and the Government said that they had listened. Now it is high time that they stopped dragging their feet and brought this law into effect.”

Identifying grooming tendencies and preventing them

In a growing number of child sexual abuse cases, the children in question are ‘groomed’ by online predators. To get a deeper understanding on this issue, refer to our previous article where we have explained in detail what online grooming is, its effect on children, and how to prevent it.

Teaching your children to use the web safely

Most children today are incredibly adept when it comes to using computers and surfing the net. It can be a magical world for them, as it seems to answer almost any question, helps them with their homework and provides entertainment through games, music and videos.

Naturally, parents and teachers want to keep their children safe while they enjoy all the benefits of the worldwide web. This is an area that we, at Securus, care passionately about. We do not believe the positive benefits of the Internet should be lost to our children because of concerns around e-Safety.

How can you help your children stay safe online?

A Guardian article by Stuart Dredge, features Internet security experts’ advice and useful tips for how children can safeguard themselves online. Here are some tips:

  1. Ensure that you discuss e-Safety at an early age. Before they get older and begin to do things independently, teach them about internet security protection, passwords, etc. and help them understand its importance.
  2. The best advice to give your children: ‘if you wouldn’t do it face to face – don’t do it online.’ For instance, ask them: “would you be comfortable going up to a complete stranger and starting a conversation in the real world?”
  3. Your children could be vulnerable to adults contacting them, therefore it is important for you to ensure that they beware of strangers bearing gifts online.
  4. Remember, if your child writes something online, they can’t delete it. Therefore, it is worth reminding them that their online footprint could affect how they are perceived in the future.
  5. Before you hand over any Internet connected device, acquaint yourself with how it works.
  6. Keep talking about e-Safety issues on a regular basis. This helps build trust and open communication around the topic and is a much better option than imposing restrictions or banning the Internet.

To find out  more about e-Safety solutions, follow Securus Software on Twitter and connect with us on LinkedIn.

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