Online grooming is a frightening prospect and a devastating crime. Criminals will seek to build a relationship with a child online in order to win their trust to commit sexual abuse or exploitation.
Parents can take certain precautions to help minimise the risks of online grooming and are advised to always watch for warning signs of potential abuse. Child safety organisations recommend parents remain vigilant to the signs of grooming, even though this can be difficult to discern from the behaviour of older children.
By following expert advice to closely monitor any changes to your child’s normal behaviour you could catch the early warning signs of grooming, such as:
Child safety advice stresses the importance of remembering that a groomer could be a family friend, a relative or someone a child already knows via school, hobbies or the places they visit. Groomers are often, but not always, strangers who conceal their identities online to prey on children. They create fake profiles on social media platforms popular with young people and share fake photographs and video of themselves in chat messages.
Online groomers lurk in places beyond social media, using messaging apps, email or text, and approaching children in games, apps and on forums.
Whether you suspect grooming online, in person or both, there are various ways in which to report your concerns to help protect a child who may be in danger.
Call the Police (999) if a child is at immediate risk or call 101 to report a crime
The NSPCC has extensive advice on grooming available on its website, here – https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/grooming/
You can read an account of online grooming from the perspective of a young victim on the Childline website, here – https://www.childline.org.uk/get-involved/real-life-stories/online-grooming-charlottes-story/