Grooming is a word that you hear a lot about in the news, but what does it actually mean?
Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection to a child for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking. Traditionally, this happened face-to-face however, as technology has progressed lots of grooming activity has moved online.
Online grooming is when someone uses the internet to trick, force or pressure a young person into doing something sexual such as sending an explicit image or video. In some cases they may try and pressure a young person into meeting up.
In the last year, calls to Childline from young people worried about online sexual abuse rose by almost a quarter (24%) (of which, one in eight calls related specifically to grooming - a rise of 21%). Previous figures from the NSPCC revealed that the internet is increasingly used as a gateway by offenders to commit crimes including sexual exploitation and grooming
That's why we're empowering young people with our #ListenToYourSelfie campaign. It aims to help young people recognise the signs of unhealthy relationships and grooming. Funded by BBC Children in need, Listen To Your Selfie features two films which look at both online grooming and peer-to-peer sexual pressure.
#ListenToYourSelfie aims to inform young people that if they share images of themselves online they lose control over what happens to them.
What can I do to protect my child?
No two situations are the same with online grooming. Warning signs for parents to look out for include:
- excessive secrecy by their child
- signs of panic when the internet is not available to them
- Owning a new electronic device that they would not have been able to purchase for themselves.
To keep their children safe, parents should talk about online safety in an everyday manner. Taking a genuine interest in their child's online lives and opening a dialogue as soon as they start to use the internet, and social media in particular, is a good way to begin.
Top tips for helping your child stay safe from online grooming include:
- Parental controls can be set for computers and devices. These can block and filter content which may be otherwise be used by people looking to contact and exploit young people
- Discussing boundaries with your child - look at how much time your child spends online and what websites they are visiting to meet friends
- Ensure they know what to do if someone they don't know contacts them (ask you for advice)
- Ask them to tell you if an online friend asks to meet face-to-face
- Explain that someone online may not be who they say they are
- Let them know they can contact Childline if they are worried about online bullying or inappropriate messages
The NSPCC and 02 have also launched the Net-Aware service to help keep young people safe from grooming and other forms of online abuse. It allows parents and young people to rate some of the most popular sites and apps used by children in terms of their suitability by age. Visit https://www.net-aware.org.uk/ to find out more.
If you're worried about a child you can call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 or visit http://www.nspcc.org.uk
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