What is online grooming?
Grooming is recognised as when a person, usually older, wants to get close to a child with the intentions of sexually harming them. As well as being a problem in the real world, grooming is also a major issue online.
People can easily pretend to be someone else online, which means that children can sometimes speak to people whose true identity they do not know.
Groomers can make fake social media or chatroom profiles, creating the illusion that they are a child, in an effort to communicate with children. They can also gain the trust of children by adding fake profile pictures to these accounts, as well as pretending to have similar interests as their targets and offering them gifts.
Once the groomer feels like they have gained the child?s trust, they often focus on the young person?s sexual experiences and commonly ask them to send sexual photographs or videos of themselves. Some perpetrators try to set up meetings with the child and threaten to release the photographs and videos they have of them if they don?t comply.
In many situations the groomer is not a stranger and is actually known by the child. The offender has often met the child at family or social events and is now using the Internet to build up a relationship with them. Children sometimes don?t even realise they have been groomed and believe that they simply have a new boyfriend or girlfriend.