Online grooming is the process by which someone with a sexual interest in children will approach a child online, with the intention of developing a relationship with that child, to be able to meet them in person and intentionally cause harm. In many cases it can be an adult contacting a child under the guise of a false identity (i.e. pretending to be a teenager). This is an area in which young people with ASD are particularly vulnerable as they may perceive everything told to them by another person online to be the truth, may not question the directions in which online conversations head and may not realise the importance of not meeting up in person with someone they've only met online.
Use of the resources and information in the TRUST section of the toolkit is a useful way to raise this issue and explore the messages further with your pupils. In particular, discussing the pressure that young people may be put under to send pictures/videos to others online and the importance of making positive choices and staying in control of the details they share online.
It is important to stress to young people with ASD that if they feel uncomfortable or worried about anything that anyone says online to them that they should stop and tell a trusted adult. However, it is important to realise that in this particular, young people with ASD needs may not be aware that they are being groomed, and may not respond in the same way as they would to negative or bullying comments made by others online.
Therefore if you are at all concerned that a child in your care has been contacted by an adult online, it is imperative to tell someone straight away.
- Ensure that you are familiar with reporting procedures in your workplace and that confidentiality is not promised to the child in question.
- Report immediately to the designated person, for example the Child Protection Officer so that the correct steps are taken from the outset.
- Ensure that the child's own words are used and are not changed in any way. The child or young person in question may want to accompany you when you make your report, to be part of the process.
Reports can be made to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre
(CEOP) or a local police force.