The internet can be a fantastic place for children and young people to connect with their friends; discover new things and be creative. However, 'friends' made online may not be who they say they are. This can be a difficult concept for children to understand.
What is grooming?
Online grooming is the process by which an adult 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. The motivation behind this is most likely to be sexual. However, not all adults who seek to groom children online have an intention of meeting up with the child. Instead their intention may be to coerce the child into taking sexually explcit photos or videos and to send these to the adult. Alternatively, their motivation could be financial gain from the child or their family.
Groomers are very skilled at what they do and can often befriend a child by appearing to have the same hobbies and interests as them. Using fake accounts and stock photos, they may also appear to be the same age as the child. Children can be flattered at first by the attention given to them by this new ‘online friend’ and if they engage, they are often asked to speak ‘more privately’ with the groomer, whether that be away from an online game, or a different social network. They even offer the child help within a game in order to receive card details of a family member. Often children may not be aware that they are being groomed.
For more information and age appropriate resources for children relating to online grooming, visit Thinkuknow.
What should I do if I have concerns?
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 Designated Safeguarding Lead, 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) and further information can be found at Virtual Global Taskforce. Child sexual abuse content found online can also be reported to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF).
How can I educate young people about this?
Use the following resources to help you educate young people about how adults can groom online, the risk of online contact and who to report to if it happens: