What is online grooming?
There’s a chance that your child may meet people online that aren’t who they say they are. Grooming is a word used to describe people befriending children in order to take advantage of them for sexual purposes.
How common is online grooming?
A recent survey (Hopes and Streams) from the London Grid for Learning revealed that 2 in 5 young people had never told anyone about the worst thing that had happened to them online. With this in mind, it is very hard to know the statistics on this.
Where can online grooming happen?
Online groomers will target children on sites and platforms that are popular with young people. On social media, online groomers will often target a number of young people at any one time by sending out friend requests to see who responds. Through online forums and online games, they may strike up a conversation to build a relationship with a child and ask them to continue the talking on another platform or chat privately.
It’s important to note that online communities can help children seeking support on issues they may not be able to openly talk about with parents(i.e. Childline). However, If your child is active on social or online forums, it’s important to make sure they know how to report to CEOP if they come across anyone that they suspect is a potential danger.
Online grooming and the law
In April 2017, the UK Government introduced the Sexual Communication with a Child offence giving the police the power to charge adults who send a sexual message to children in England and Wales.
The aim is to stop abuse before it starts. As of January 2018 over 1,300 cases of sexual communication with a child have been recorded with girls aged between 12 – 15 being the most likely to be targeted.
In September 2018 the number of suspected incidents of online child sexual abuse referred to the Metropolitan police increased by 700% since 2014.
Due to the scale of the issues, the UK Government has committed to doing more to tackle online child sexual exploitations by working with the tech industry to stop online child sexual abuse, sharing solutions and best practice to improve the response.
Many organisations are looking for tech tools to alert and stop images of abuse being shared online. Google recently announced their AI tools created to do just that.
Source: Internet Matters & NSPCC