Online Risks Series #4: Online Grooming

With all of us spending extended amounts of time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is naturally a heightened focus on the use of technology and the internet.

Whether it’s for the purpose of home schooling or to purely entertain, children are now tapped into the online world more than ever and, with this, comes natural risks.

One of those risks which is receiving increased media coverage during lockdown surrounds “online grooming”. This is a term which describes a person building a connection with a child online, with the intent to sexually abuse or exploit them.

Background of online grooming

It goes without saying that children are the most vulnerable and susceptible to becoming victims of online grooming due to their innocent nature and unlikeliness to question the person(s) who is messaging or engaging with them.

Reports of grooming incidents have increased in recent years according to the NSPCC, with the Metropolitan Police warning that online child abuse will rise during lockdown, with 45 people arrested during its first month.

Predators often have the goal of meeting the victim in a controlled setting to sexually or physically abuse them and, in some cases, children may experience long-lasting psychological damage.

Advice for parents & carers

Online grooming can be difficult to detect, but it’s important to know that there are steps which you can take as a parent or carer in order to educate yourself and also eradicate some of the associated dangers.

Our recent guide on online grooming pinpoints a number of things to look out for and steps to take:

  • Firstly, it’s important to talk to your child about what they are doing online and what constitutes a safe online relationship.
  • Show support to your child and encourage them to disclose any problems which they have.
  • Make it clear that under no uncertain terms should friend requests be accepted from strangers.
  • Monitor your child’s social media and streaming use, and perhaps look to be present if and when they are in fact live streaming.
  • You can also ensure of a safer online experience by updating your privacy settings on the websites, devices, networks and apps that your child is using.

What to do should an incident arise

Should you have suspicions about a relationship that your child has online, or you’ve been made aware of a grooming incident, it’s important to follow the necessary procedures.

To begin, you should immediately instruct the child to stop all contact with the groomer. However, it’s vital to retain all conversations and engagements, as these may be needed as evidence.

Once you’ve contacted the appropriate services, it’s crucial to offer your support and explain to the child that everything will be ok.

Find out more

Click here to view our full range of courses which are designed for the whole school community and provide further advice and guidance on online grooming as well as a range of other online harms.

You can also download our online safety guide on the subject of online grooming, which takes a detailed look at the issue and how to tackle it in more detail.

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