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The internet can be a fantastic place for children and youngsters to connect with their friends to learn new things and also educate themselves. However, online friends may not actually be who they say they are. Behind the front of a friend may be a paedophile trying to groom the youngster and get his way with them. This, however, can be a difficult concept for children to understand fully. Especially, since children are inherently trusting of others.
Today, a child may meet such individuals on the internet — a term now called Cyber Grooming. It is a term used to describe people who befriend children and then take advantage of them for sexual purposes.
“Cyber Grooming is a pretend play where sexual predators adopt different roles like a close friend or a sympathetic listener to gain the trust of the child and then use them for sexual acts or favours.”
CLICK HERE to watch a video on cyber grooming.
- Nowadays, youngsters are more accessible to offenders through technology.
- Grooming techniques vary and may also involve manipulation, flattery and sexual incentives.
- The internet aids anonymity, thereby assisting offenders in distancing themselves from abuse and protecting their identity.
- Offenders sense vulnerability and use it as a motive to contact children.
- Parents and teachers are often unaware of this modern-day practice.
What is cyber-grooming?
- Cyber grooming takes place when someone (often an adult) befriends a child online and builds an emotional connection with a future intention of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.
- The main goal of cyber grooming is to win the trust of the child, to thereby obtain intimate and personal data from the child (often sexual in nature—such as sexual conversations, pictures or videos) in order to threaten and blackmail them for further inappropriate material.
- The perpetrators often use fake identities of a child or teenager and approach their victims on child-friendly websites, thus leaving children vulnerable and unaware of the fact that they have been approached for purposes of cyber grooming.
- Conversations usually start with innocent and general questions about age, hobbies, school, family etc. and progress into questions regarding sexual experiences and desires.
- Children or teenagers can also unknowingly initiate the grooming process when they sign up to websites or forums with lucrative offers such as money in exchange for contact details or intimate photos of themselves.
Few signs that you need to recognize:
- When your child unusually wants to spend more time on the internet.
- When they are being secretive and evade questions when it comes to the websites they visit, the people they talk to and chat with.
- When they become emotional quite often.
- When they are using language and sexual language that they otherwise would never know.
- When they possess electronic items without your knowledge.
- When they suddenly open new tabs or switch off the computer monitor when you walk in.
Is your child a target?
- While it may be a difficult to recognize, a lot of grooming usually takes place at home, when your child is online.
- Groomers are usually experts in their domain and request children to keep any conversation a ‘secret’ between the both of them.
Rahul, an eleven-year old, had just started using the internet, when he received a friend request on a social media platform from a stranger. The stranger promised to buy him his favourite video games and this convinced Rahul that the stranger was his new friend. The next day, Rahul was asked details about his family, where he lived and when would his parents leave home for work. Finally, the stranger asked Rahul for a naked picture. This was a classic case of cyber grooming.