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Online grooming is a form of child sexual exploitation where someone builds an emotional connection with a child under the age of 18 to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.
Children and young people can be groomed online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone they know – for example a family member, friend or professional. Groomers may be male or female and belong to any age group.
An online groomer may attempt to gain the trust of their victims by using fake profile pictures, pretending to have similar interests, offering gifts and complementing the child.
Some may try to set up a meeting, or even blackmail children by threatening to publish the content online.
The exploitation may involve penetrative sexual acts, sexual touching, masturbation and the misuse of sexual images (on the internet or by mobile phone).
It is an offence for anyone to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 16.
Online Grooming can occur anywhere where a private conversation is being held. This not only includes websites, online forums and social media but extends to online gaming (where chat facilities are enabled), mobile apps – basically anywhere with a chat facility.
Chat facilities can give an impression of talking to someone in private and this can lead to people building up a relationship and confiding in each other.
Be on guard against groomers on:
Communication on the internet is public and perceived as anonymous which can dupe children into a false sense of security – people feel less inhibited online and more free to talk in a way that they wouldn’t in person. It is important to remember that it is very difficult to verify that the person you are talking to online, is actually who they say they are.
Groomers sometimes use false identities or fake profiles and photos to talk to young people online. They can be skilled at getting victims to disclose as much information as possible about where they live, their phone number, what their hobbies are and even sexual experiences from children. This could potentially escalate into showing examples of pornography in order to help persuade a child to take part in sexual activities.
A groomer may pose as another child in order to gain the trust of their victim. Often a groomer will pretend to be a person that understand the child’s concerns and may give their victim the impression that they are one of the few friends they can trust. This can result in a child letting their guard down and disclosing things or taking part in activities that they would never usually do.
A groomer may force a child to do any of the following:
Groomers may force a child to take part in sexual abuse by threatening to send copies of pictures, videos or conversations to the child’s families or friends. Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.
Snapchat is a mobile messaging application that lets you share photos, videos, text and drawings that expire and automatically delete themselves after a set time, ranging from a few seconds up to 24 hours. It’s free to download and send messages using the service and it’s also become insanely popular with adults and teenagers alike.
Snapchat has many features but one that has raised concerns is ‘Snap Maps’ safety experts fear it could be used to stalk or bully others. Given the accuracy of the feature users are being discouraged to use it for privacy concerns.
The ‘Snap Maps’ feature allows other people to see exactly where you are in real time by using your Snapchat avatar on an interactive world map. It uses data such as your location, speed of travel and phone usage to work out where you are and what you’re doing, and shares this information with your friends on an interactive map.
There are a couple of setting changes you can make to ensure you are safe. Snap Map is off by default, and is an opt-in feature which can be switched off at any time.
When you first open Snap Map, you can decide who can see your location. If you change your mind, you can alter this on your Snapchat settings. Click on the cog icon, click on “see my location” and choose the setting which suits you. You can also change this on the Snap Map itself by clicking on the cog in the right hand corner of the screen, or not use it at all by selecting ‘ghost mode’ which hides you from using the feature at all.