How does ‘online grooming’ happen?
Grooming can take place over a short or long period of time. It can start out publicly on social media and in games but will most likely move across to private chats.
Anyone could unfortunately groom a child online, regardless of age, gender or race. 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 photos, they may also appear to be the same age as the child. However, not all groomers will choose to mask their age or gender. Some groomers may impersonate an aspirational figure such as a modelling scout, sports coach, celebrity or influencer, whilst others may use their age and experience to develop a ‘mentor’ type relationship with their victim.
A groomer will use the same sites, games and apps as children in order to gain their trust and build a friendship. Children can be flattered at first by the attention given to them by this new ‘online friend’, particularly if they are offering support, showing understanding or giving validation. However, they may also seek to manipulate, blackmail and control the child, potentially isolating them from their friends and family.
It’s important to remember that children may not understand they have been groomed or see their ‘online friend’ as untrustworthy or abusive.