Hello my lovelies,
It will be very hard to find a teenager who doesn’t have a social media account and I think it’s heading that way with preteens and children. Ofcom conducted 1,379 interviews from April to June in 2015. These interviews consisted of talking to children from the ages 5-15 and their parent’s about having social media accounts. Shockingly 1 in 5, 8 to 11-year-olds have a social media account and 7 in 10 12-15-year-olds do. I expected it to go up the older the age group, but personally I think an age younger than 13 shouldn’t have a social media account. I’d like to think that nothing goes wrong on the internet that it’s all happy rainbows and butterflies, however, this isn’t the case. I am going to talk about a couple of different subject’s I feel are important. I want to start with online grooming because I feel this is a subject that is not discussed t as much as it should be. I feel that people see it as a taboo subject because it is a horrible subject and people don’t like to think it goes on. However it does, and ignoring it, isn’t the answer.
A groomer can contact a child through instant messaging apps, social media websites and gaming websites. They will look for sexual sounding usernames and comments and can send a message to 100 different children and just wait to see who replies. The groomer may even use a fake name, fake profile, fake interests. However, a groomer doesn’t have to be a stranger, they could have already met the child they are targeting through family, friends or social activities. Sadly, some groomers use their professional positions to groom children.
An online groomer is someone that talks to young children in a sexual way. They get the name groomer by luring the child in. They will start off sounding innocent, by just general talking over the internet about mutual interests. However, the groomer may not actually have these interests, but use them to form a friendship platform and trust. Once the platform has been built, the groomer will most likely move straight into inappropriate conversations. It may start off them talking about their sexual experiences with others and asking the child to share theirs. Before you know it, the child has been persuaded to send a sexual picture and the groomer has succeeded in making them feel trapped. The groomer will then start to ask for more pictures or even video’s. Children with a built-in webcam may even be asked to perform sexual acts on webcam.
A child may feel trapped once these actions have been taken as the groomer may start to blackmail the child. The groomer may threaten the child by saying they will send the pictures to the child’s family and/or friend’s or even share them online if the child doesn’t do as the groomer asks. The groomer may also isolate the child from their friends and family and tell the child that they should feel ashamed for what they have done. This will, in turn, make the child feel ashamed and guilty. Due to this, the child might not want to ask for help, which mean’s once again the groomer has full control. If the child has been isolated, they will feel they can only depend on the groomer. As children can feel ashamed, it is hard to know how common grooming actually is, as children don’t open up about their experiences.
I have compiled a list of things to watch out for. These are everything I found while researching online. However, just because something is on this list, doesn’t necessary mean that your child is being groomed.
- Being secretive- Not letting you see what’s on their phone, laptop, table etc.
- Having older partners- Keep an eye on who they are friends with in person and who they are meeting. Having online relationships are not as easy. Try and find out who they’re friends with online.
- Meeting friends in unusual places- Teenagers won’t be as forthcoming to tell you where they are going and will most likely walk to hide the groomers identity, but children rely on parents to drop them places.
- New things- Receive things in the post from the online groomer. Offline the groomer may personally give a gift. So if you notice new objects that cannot be explained, keep an eye on the situation as best as you can.
- Access to drugs and alcohol- This is more offline. Sad to say, but the groomer may supply these in a way to sexually assault the child. If you notice your child drunk or seem to be on drug’s start to question where they go it from.
- Suddenly behaving differently
- Becoming more anxious about things
- Having sleeping problems
- Skipping school
- Becoming depressed, self-harming and thoughts of suicide. If things go too far online like sending nude photos, this could bring the child down and make them worry what the groomer might do with the picture. Offline if they have had sex with the groomer they may regret it and feel certain things about themselves.
- Eating habits and eating disorders.
The best way to make sure your child is safe online is to not let them online. However, I live in the real world and with today’s technology, it’s pretty impossible. So instead just be completely open with your child. Talk to them about online grooming, let them know that you will always be there for them even if that mean’s past the sending pictures stage. A groomer will never get away with what they have done if the right people know about it. Obviously, if your child is too young to go into details about a groomer, use stranger danger in the same way as you would if they were out on the streets. Explain that personal information should always stay personal. Ask your child questions, ask who they are talking to, what site they are on and how they met the person they are talking to. Ask what conversations they are having. I understand if it’s a teenager it could be a little tricky to get this information out of them though.
As a parent, it can be hard to know what’s going on and not be able to do anything about it if your child won’t let you. 58% of parents are concerned about threats they have seen from strangers to their children online. Scary enough, 48% of secondary children (preteen’s and teenagers) have admitted they have communicated with people they don’t actually know online. Schools are also taken responsibility in teaching about online grooming safety. A huge 95% of schools talk about the dangers of giving out personal information online to strangers or people they don’t actually know. The other 5% need to follow through with this.
Most if not all of the information in this blog post is based in the UK, mainly because this is where I’m from. This is the first instalment, there is much more to come.