Contributed by Nataliya Stefanus
Online grooming is a term you need to remember, because you are going to hear it quite often. It has nothing to do with hair or personal looks, but with online predators, who are using “grooming” to attract their innocent victims.
Where can online grooming take place?
Before you learn more about online grooming, you need to know it can happen anywhere, at any time. This is what makes it so dangerous for kids. According to studies, 90% of kids are online and own a phone as early as six years of age. This means they can be reached at any time by their parents and by online predators. A predator can send messages to your child, engaging in an online relationship, without the parent’s knowledge. If your child is receiving messages from a number you don’t know, you can lookup their phone number and see what information you get. In many cases, you will come up empty-handed, which is a red flag.
How to spot an online groomer
An online groomer can be of any age and gender, so they are hard to spot. Most of them are adults, who pretend to be the same age as their victim, in order to gain the child’s trust. One of the first sign your child is being “groomed” is that they have a perfect friend. Online predators are masters at convincing their victims they genuinely care about them. This is very attractive for kids, who have a hard time understanding why would someone pretend to care about them. When the child trusts the predator, the latter begins asking for favors, which range from sexual favors to other things.
How to protect your child from online predators
To make sure your child is safe online, make sure you always know who they are talking to. Meet all their online friends in person. Teach the child to tell you when someone is asking for personal information, like where they live or the household daily schedule. At the same time, they should know they are not supposed to meet strangers they’ve been talking to online, nor disclose to them sensitive information, no matter how much they trust them. Teach your child to avoid strangers and don’t answer messages or mail from people they don’t know. You should know the password from your child’s social accounts and email, so you can monitor their online activity and see their emails.
What signs you should look for
You can’t monitor every second of your child’s online life, so you have to make sure you notice the slightest changes in their behavior. When a child is being groomed, their behavior changes and they are likely to start spending more time online, chatting with the predator.
They might start using sexual language, engage in violent behavior or become very angry.
Many online predators send gifts to their victims, in order to allow them to control them better, so if you see your child has new gadgets or is trying to hide something from you, it’s time to talk about it.