The internet is like a whole new universe with various realms where you could be a part of a community. The possibilities that the internet offers is perhaps one of the main reasons why it is so attractive, particularly to children and young people.
There are, however, dangers lurking on the internet. Private information may be compromised and used with malicious intent by cybercriminals. There are a myriad of information, pornographic materials, and the like that children might access. Then there’s cyberbullying which is a major concern for parents.
The most alarming perhaps is the sexual predators lurking online, biding their time to pounce on any child or person who makes the mistake of engaging with them. Sexual predators usually prey on an unsuspecting child or young person. They use various ways of stalking their prey, so to speak, one of which is child grooming.
Protect Your Child From Online Grooming
Child grooming is a process in which a sexual predator cultivates a relationship with a child with the end goal of turning it into a sexual relationship. The relationship is shrouded in secrecy since almost always, sexual abuse eventually occurs.
Even before sexual predators started to cast their nets online, there have been too many abuse cases wherein a child is groomed for sexual activity. Oftentimes, trusted adults, such as teachers, coaches, counselors, or even a family member, are the ones who abuse a child. Every child is vulnerable to child grooming, especially now that almost every child or young person has their own phone and is on the internet regularly.
So how does child grooming happen? How could something so dangerous escape the notice of parents?
Well, sexual predators have a grooming process that they follow. Take note of the following so you can spot grooming behaviors in case child grooming may be happening around you.
Gaining A Target’s Trust
It all starts with targeting a victim. Again, this could be any child especially now that sexual predators scour social media platforms and various messaging apps for possible victims. It would only take one simple step like accepting a friend request, responding to a message, engaging in a chat room, and the like, and the child may very well fall victim to child grooming.
Once the initial contact is established, sexual predators will start working on building trust with the victim. They may act like concerned adults and work on meeting the child’s needs.
Building A Relationship Leading to Isolation
A sexual predator builds a relationship by fulfilling a particular need such as a child’s craving for time and attention, companionship, or even material things. It is therefore important for parents to be vigilant for any adult that showers kids with too much attention and material gifts. This could be tricky though since as a rule, child groomers operate stealthily.
After establishing a special relationship, the groomer will start isolating a child. In-person, this may be by creating situations in which they are alone together. Online, it may be by encouraging the child to spend all their time talking or chatting with them or by subtly influencing them to distance themselves from their friends and family.
Transitioning Into A Sexual Relationship
In-person, continuous isolation could lead to complacency on the part of the child which is when the child groomer may sexually assault the child. Sometimes, the child might consider it only natural to take their relationship further by engaging in sexual activities.
For victims that started online, the sexual predator may turn friendship into a romantic relationship and may eventually ask for sensitive and compromising photos and videos. The sexual predator may go as far as convincing the victim to meet up in person to fully sexualize the relationship.
Maintaining Control Over The Child
A predator would then use the sexual nature of the relationship to maintain control over the victim. It may be by conditioning the victim to believe that they need the offender in their life. It may also be through blackmail or threats. Whichever is most effective, the child groomer will use it to continue the abuse in secret.
Watch Out For Signs of Sexual Grooming In Your Child
A victim of child grooming or sexual abuse and blackmail may show some of the following sign:
- Unexplained absences.
- Being secretive about where they go and who they are with.
- Being secretive about their online activities.
- Being extra protective of their phone and other devices.
- Displaying alarming mood changes.
- Being picked up or meeting up with an unknown adult.
- Having new things that are supposedly given by a new friend.
The aforementioned are only some of the signs that may help you determine if your child has fallen victim to a child groomer. If you see any of these signs or have even the slightest suspicion that your child is being groomed, get in touch with the proper authorities. Unfortunately, you can not be 100% sure that your child is safe from such a threat. The best way to protect your child protection is through parental supervision. Give them the attention and care they want and need so that they do not go looking for it somewhere else.
Child grooming is a real threat in which your child may already be entangled with, with you having no clue it’s going on. Pay attention, always. Paying attention to your children’s behavior as well as their phones and online activities. This could go a long way in protecting them from child sexual abusers.
Educate them about the dangers of child grooming to decrease the chances of them accepting suspicious friend requests and responding to messages from unknown senders. Maintain open communication lines with them to increase the chances of them talking to you about new things happening in their lives or of threats and dangers they may be encountering.