What You Should Know about Online Grooming and Exploitation

Parents should be aware of the dangers that exist online. It is their duty to ensure that their kids are safe when they browse the Internet. Online child sex offenders often log into chat rooms, social networking services, and gaming sites in order to get in touch with children. The prevalence rate of online grooming and exploitation is alarming that parents should take steps in order to keep their kids safe from harm when they are online.

What is Online Grooming and Exploitation?

Online grooming is when a person uses the internet to get close to kids and gain their trust. That person will try to form relationships with children and pretend to be their friend. But in reality, that person only wants to take advantage of them to fulfil one’s sexual desires.

It is easy to be someone you are not on the internet. And young people often end up talking with people who they don’t know the real identities. A groomer will try to get the trust of a child by talking about stuff that is seemingly safe. He or she will also say nice things to the child and offer gifts. Some groomers would offer modelling jobs so that kids, especially young girls, would send in their photos and videos to build a portfolio.

However, once the groomer gets the kid’s trust, the conversation will become sexual in nature. The person might even ask the child to send sexual photos or videos. Then one will use the videos or pictures to blackmail the child.

There are some instances in which groomers are not total strangers. There are cases in which children have met groomers through social activities or families. Then they use the internet to develop a rapport with kids. There are times when kids don’t realise that they are being groomed, and think that the groomer is their girlfriend or boyfriend.

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Groomers often have a lot of patience and tend to work several potential targets at the same time. They look for kids who are looking for sympathy, validation or support online. These types of kids are vulnerable to online grooming and exploitation.

Where does Online Grooming and Exploitation Happen?

More often than not, groomers use a social media network that’s popular among young people. They would add their potential targets as friends in Facebook or follow their Twitter account. They often use fake accounts that have fake photos. That way they can pretend to be one of their peers. They will also pretend to have the same interests.

And with the advent of mobile apps, groomers are also updated with their ways. They would often text with their target to get their trust. And with the mobile video call features of apps, children open themselves up to predatory attacks from the groomers. They would ask kids to undress on camera. Groomers would claim that their webcam is broken so that they don’t show their face to their victims.

There are cases in which online groomers suggests to their victim to meet them in person. The child thinks that they are meeting a friend, but, in fact, will be a victim to abuse. While such incident is rare, real-world abuse can happen when there is online grooming.

How does Online Grooming and Exploitation Affect Young People?

The good news for parents is that they can identify right if their children are victims of online grooming even before it becomes a serious issue. One indicator of online grooming is when one’s child is secretive about his/her online activities. The child is also spending more time online than before. The child will also go to places to meet up with friends that you haven’t seen before. In worse case scenarios, the child starts taking alcohol or drugs.

Most of the indicators are caused by spending a lot of time with somebody online who is grooming the child, and trying to get one’s trust. If you see any of the indicators, it is important

to talk with your child right away. That way you will be able to prevent problems, as well as protect your child from further harm.

What Can Parents Do?

In the first place, online grooming and exploitation can be prevented if parents have taken steps to guarantee the safety of their child while online. Privacy can be an issue with older kids, but there are still some things that can be done to reduce the risks of online grooming.

As a parent, you should know what your child is doing on the internet. There are tracking software that can monitor what they are doing online. Desktop or laptop should be placed in public areas of the home.

You should also have a talk with your child about online grooming practices. Most kids don’t know about it, and that’s why they become victims to predators. You should tell them not to provide personal information to people they only met online.

Another thing that you can do as parents is to monitor your child’s financial transactions and phone usage. If there are texts and calls from unknown numbers or if your child is sending money to a stranger, then you might need to step in and address the problem right away.

You should also watch for changes to one’s behaviours. Don’t dismiss the changes as part of growing up. More often than not, the changes might not be caused by online grooming, but at least, you get to talk to your child and find out what’s bothering him/her.

Keeping your children safe while on the internet can be a tedious and challenging task. The internet is a good learning tool but it can also bring dangers when misused. Online grooming and exploitation are threats to the safety of your precious child, and that’s why you should know what it is and how to determine the signs. That way you will be able to stop online grooming before it is too late.

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