There are a lot of great things for young people to experience online. Sometimes though young people put themselves at risk by communicating with people they don’t know. This can be risky as online predators will visit sites that young people do to groom them.
Online grooming is when a person tries to create a sexually abusive situation using technology. It’s not uncommmon for online predators (usually adults) to lie about their age and know things that will help them relate to young people. They might find and choose their targets online or offline (eg. talking to a young person at a shopping centre to begin a relationship).
- How do groomers find a potential target? Groomers try to establish a ‘relationship’ with a target. In most cases they want to be seen as a trusted and respected peer or caring and understanding older person. Sometimes they might pose as someone needing help or being in distress.
- Why is establishing a relationship important to the grooming process? If a groomer can establish a relationship with a target it can make them less suspicious of the groomer’s actions and intentions. Groomers aim to get targets to believe things which are not true, but they also try to manipulate them to suspend their beliefs and abandon their usual sense of caution and scepticism.
- What sort of information do groomers want? Groomers gather information about their potential target to use later on. They’ll collect information about their age, their address, what they look like, whether they feel vulnerable or lonely and if plying them with gifts/money/drugs/alcohol is an option. Some groomers may install viruses to control aspects of their target’s device in order to get more information or turn on their target’s webcam, so that they can watch and take footage without them knowing.
- What type of people do groomers target? Young people who seem neglected, alienated from immediate family, are not easily believed by adults or have been abused before are attractive options to targets.This is because people who have physical and or psychological challenges might find it more difficult to report abuse.
- Will taking away technology prevent my child from grooming? No, this is not likely to work. If a young person has been told not to communicate with a stranger because of the potential dangers and does it anyway, they might not tell a parent/caregiver as they don’t want to get into trouble and have their devices removed. It’s important to keep talking to kids about their online experiences.
- Do groomers isolate their target? Yes, as it makes the target more reliant on the groomer and it reduces their opportunity to talk to others about what is happening. Groomers may do this by sabotaging the target’s relationships by saying:
- “Your school friends probably don’t really like you anyway”
- “Your parents don’t care about you. I care about you more than they do”
- “I need you more than your family”
- Will groomers blackmail their targets? Groomers might use threats and blackmail if the target tells someone or doesn’t comply. Common examples are threats to hurt family members and pets or telling a child’s parent their child has acted inappropriately.
Signs that grooming might be happening
Some of the signs that your child might be being groomed or something else is happening includes your child:
- withdrawing from the family.
- receiving mail, gifts or packages from someone you don’t know.
- has pornography on their devices.
- is receiving phone calls from people you don’t know or is making calls to numbers you don’t know and they won’t explain who they are talking to.
- turning off their device quickly or changes the screen when you come into the room.
How to get help
- If you suspect your child is being groomed contact the Police.
- You will need to capture all the evidence that you can to help the Police.
- If grooming has happened on a social networking site or mobile app, report what happened using the site or app’s reporting system.
- Contact Netsafe for advice or make a report to Netsafe.
More advice and information
- Contact NetSafe if you’d like further advice on 0508 NETSAFE.