As insidious as it is, the largest danger to your child could be right inside your house as your child plays on their phone.
With the rise in social media, online gaming, and digital technology, chatting with people across the globe has never been easier. Especially since most kids make their profiles public to gain more followers. The problem is, people are not always who they say they are. The danger? Children talking to predators online and not recognizing the red flags.
What is online grooming?
Online grooming is a term used to describe an adult predator who befriends children online through social media, online forums, and gaming with the purpose of taking advantage of them sexually. This is often a purposefully slow and methodical process. Below are the steps groomers take.
The groomer first has to get a point of contact. They do this by creating fake accounts on sites that target younger audiences and gaining their trust and friendship. They tend to target vulnerable children or children with less parental supervision. However, any child of any race, religion, and socioeconomic background is susceptible to becoming a victim.
Gaining Trust and Control
Once the groomer has the child’s trust they often urge them to keep their relationship a secret and may try to turn the child against their parents. Remember, groomers are ultimate manipulators and disguise their ulterior motives with charm and faux helpfulness.
Many times victims of grooming actually believed the predator was their significant other or friend.
Now that the groomer has trust and control over the child they start to push boundaries. They start off with small actions like, talking about sexual subjects, then move on to sending nude pictures, and then may ask to meet in person. This is all a process of desensitizing sex to the child and normalizing these kind of behaviors.
What are some Signs my Child is Being Groomed?
As a parent, it’s important to keep your eye out for certain behaviors that may signify your child is talking to a predator. Here are some common behavior changes:
● Hiding their phone or switching windows on a laptop as you walk by
● Increased obsessive behavior with spending time on the internet
● Using sexual language you wouldn’t expect them to know
● Emotionally lashing out or becoming more secluded
What can I do
The most important thing you can do to prevent this is to have an open and honest conversation with your child about online safety and red flags.
Another popular preventive step is to download the app Bark. Bark is a service parents can use that monitors texts, emails, social networks, ect. for signs of harmful interactions and content. You then get alerts when the app detects a potential threat.
Moral of the story, be preventative, know the red flags of online grooming, and make sure your child knows these red flags too.
For more information on grooming and how to talk to your child about it, click here.