With 1.8bn of us now on Facebook, it’s becoming more important than ever for parents to monitor their kids’ internet usage.
FACEBOOK is now one of the world’s most popular websites with a staggering 1.8 billion monthly users.
But it can be extremely difficult for parents to know exactly what their children are seeing and who they’re talking to on social media.
What is online grooming?
Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child with a view to gaining their trust for sexual or trafficking purposes.
The groomer can be a stranger or someone they already know and the grooming can happen online or in person.
Often this is done by finding out information about a potential victim and trying to establish the likelihood that a child will report them.
They then try and isolate their victim and may use tactics like flattery and gifts to build a rapport or even threats and intimidation to gain control.
They can use chat rooms focusing on children’s interests or social media to make contact and often pretend to be younger than they are.
An NSPCC spokesman said: “Following a two-year campaign by the NSPCC grooming is now a crime, and as of April 3 it was made illegal for an adult to send a sexual message to a child.
“Children should be as safe online as they are offline, wherever they are in the UK.
“This law gives police in England and Wales the powers they need to protect children from online grooming, and to intervene sooner to stop abuse before it escalates.”
What are the signs of online child grooming?
It can be hard to know if your child is being groomed online and obviously groomers will go to great lengths not to be identified.
The NSPCC list some of the things that should ring alarm bells include:
- Secretive behaviour about what they are doing online
- Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
- Going to unusual places to meet up with friends
- They suddenly have new things like clothes or phones which they can’t explain
- They have access to drugs and alcohol
- Inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age
- They may become more withdrawn, anxious, depressed or aggressive
- Alternatively they can become more clingy, have problems sleeping and eating or can wet the bed
How to prevent online child grooming?
Fundamentally Children offers the following advice:
- As soon as your child starts using social media make sure that they understand who they should be contacting and who they shouldn’t
- Make sure they understand that social media is for connecting with people they already know in the real world
- Teach your children that people they speak to online may not be honest
- Make sure you know which social media sites your child has a profile on and join them yourself so you understand how they work
- Try not to be overly strict as a total ban may push them to hide their online profiles from you
- Make sure you know who your child is speaking to and if you have any concerns ask to see the messages they are sending, always explain why you are doing this so as to maintain trust between you
- Show your child that they can come to you if they have any concerns
What should I do if I need more information?
There are a lot of charities out there which can help and support you if you have concerns about child grooming online.
We recommend contacting the NSPCC for more information.