Online grooming is when an adult makes online contact with someone under the age of 16 with the intention of engaging in sexual abuse.The offence is committed in the communication phase so no physical contact need ever occur for police to step in, investigate and arrest offenders.
Online sex offenders are often very skilled at manipulating children and young people and may groom multiple children simultaneously.
Some offenders will use the anonymity and disinhibition provided by the internet to quickly raise requests for sex with a child or young person.
Other offenders may use a gradual approach where friendship is established, sexual concepts are introduced, the child is exposed to adult pornography, then child exploitation material and then is asked to create their own or meet up for sex.
These signs may not be a result of online grooming, but may evidence other issues which your child is facing online and are important cues for having discussions around the safe and ethical use of technology.
It is never too late to report suspicions of online grooming, but the sooner it is identified, the less harm may occur.
Young people may not necessarily be groomed online, but they may receive unwanted sexual solicitations, both from known and unknown people.The techniques for dealing with approaches from unknown people (blocking and reporting) are different from dealing with approaches from known people.It is difficult to say how prevalent online grooming is as it often goes unreported.Various research studies around the world, however, have identified the children and young people who are more at risk of being groomed online.Those most at risk include: It is still important, however, that all children and young people know how to manage any approach online by someone who may seek to groom them.At times, young people may feel as though they are in control of a situation and are just “playing around” without realising how quickly the balance of power shifts and they are being controlled by the offender.