One of the biggest risks to children on the internet is online grooming. Unfortunately, it does not discriminate against time, place, or age, and poses a serious threat to children’s mental and physical wellbeing.
Alarmingly, there are more and more reports of online grooming rising in the UK, with cases published as recently as last week making headlines.
Online grooming in the pandemic
The last year has pushed children to spend more time online for various reasons: to learn, to socialise, and to be entertained. However, more time spent online exposes them to more risks.
The founder of the Breck Foundation, Lorin LaFave, has recently reported a record number of calls to the charity from concerned parents, stating that the pandemic has exacerbated children’s vulnerabilities.
Similarly, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reported the “grave and widespread threat” facing children today due to the soaring records of online sexual abuse materials. The National Crime Agency (NCA) described the threat to children as “more severe than it has ever been”, stating that victims have suffered “horrific, real-world sexual abuse”.
Since the first lockdown, a nationwide police operation has brought about the arrests of 320 dangerous child sex offenders.
Who is at risk?
Every child who uses the internet is exposed to the threat of online grooming. However, research has concluded that the UK’s two billion vulnerable children are seven times more at risk to online harm than their peers. Vulnerabilities include having autism, eating disorders, or being in care.
An NSPCC report also revealed that lonely children are twice as likely to be groomed online. The children’s charity reported that “certain characteristics” make children more vulnerable to being groomed. These characteristics include being unhappy, lonely, or extroverted.
What do you need to do?
Now more than ever, it is vital you and your staff understand the dangers of online grooming and learn how to recognise the risks, as well as mitigate them. The Keeping Children Safe in Education 2020 guidance states: “All staff should be aware of indicators of abuse and neglect so they are able to identify cases of children who may be in need of help or protection.”
Our webinar – Online Grooming: How Schools Can Recognise, React and Respond to a Continuing Threat – covers everything you need to know about recognising the risks of online grooming and how you can best keep your students safe. You will learn how to best respond to online grooming concerns, explore the different techniques used by online predators, and which preventative measures are most effective at keeping children safe online.
The webinar is delivered by former Met Police investigator, Jonathan Taylor, who specialises in international online safety, social media, and online grooming, having served as a covert internet investigator for 10 years. His extensive practical and academic research has led him to become an expert in online paedophile activity and he now advises law enforcement bodies, academies, and parents on the dangers of online grooming.
You can sign up to the webinar here
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