In both the real world and online environments, children are at risk of encountering predators. Due to a surge of underage activity on social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc, more and more children are being groomed. Perpetrators of this crime strive to establish a connection with children either online or in-person to earn their trust.
The process of child grooming prepares children for a meeting; when children are in contact with a groomer, they become vulnerable to manipulation, exploitation and sexual abuse. Perpetrators may target and exploit the perceived vulnerabilities of children, including emotional neediness, isolation, neglect, an unstable home life, or lack of parental supervision, etc. Groomers can be of any age, gender, race and may already be acquainted with the child, or they may be strangers.
Child grooming can take place over a long period (months or years) or could occur over a short period of just a few weeks.
Types of Child Grooming
Child grooming can take place online and in person, the perpetrator may begin an initial relationship with children online in order to prepare them for a face-to-face meeting. Predators do not always pursue a romantic connection at first. They may choose to present themselves as an authority figure, mentor, or a young person to who the child can relate.
These criminals may be operating on multiple platforms to have access to as many children as possible. Groomers use the same social media websites, games, and apps as young people and study the profiles of the children they wish to groom. This ensures that the predator can learn more about the young individual and use this information to form a connection. Groomers often conceal their identity by sending photos or videos of other people.
They also utilise other forms of communication such as email and messaging apps such as WhatsApp as well as social media websites to maximize their chances of grooming children. Online groomers may employ tactics such as giving advice or attention to especially vulnerable children who may lack a leader figure in their lives. Groomers who operate in person and who may already know the child that they are grooming might buy the child presents or take them on trips.
A common tactic of groomers is to isolate the child from their family and friends so they are more susceptible to the perpetrator’s power and control.
Warning Signs Of Child Grooming
The warning signs of child grooming are not always obvious. Often, child grooming goes undetected as children do not realise what is happening to them. However, parents or guardians should look out for the following indicators of child grooming:
Having a boyfriend or girlfriend who is much older than them.
Being secretive about how they’re spending their time, including when online.
Having new clothes and expensive items such as a mobile phone.
Not wanting to talk about where their new stuff has come from.
Skips school or sporting activities.
Substance abuse (underage drinking or drug-taking).
Spending more or less time on their phone, laptop, tablet etc.
Being upset, withdrawn, or anxious.
No longer talking to you about their feelings.
Using inappropriate language or showing an understanding of sex that’s not appropriate for their age
Disappearing for long periods with no explanation as to where they have been.
Gaining The Trust Of The Parent/Caregiver
Groomers do not only target children; perpetrators work to gain the trust of parents/caregivers to lower suspicion and gain access to the child by providing seemingly friendly support. The following signs might indicate that someone is grooming you or your family with the intention of sexually abusing your child or the child you’re caring for:
They offer to babysit your child.
They offer to take the child on excursions/trips away.
They buy the family gifts.
Plays with your child and touches them in a non-sexual way as a means of getting you and your child used to physical contact.
They often compliment your family and your style of parenting.
They try to initiate a romantic relationship with you.
They offer to mentor / individually coach your child.
How You Can Help
Child grooming is a barbaric crime. If a child you know or a child in your care experiences grooming, you shouldn’t feel guilty as these perpetrators are highly experienced and know how to proceed undetected. However, it is important to trust your instinct; if you have suspicions about an acquaintance of the child you should:
Prevent your child from being alone with the person you have suspicions about.
Refrain from letting the person do favours for your family.
Speak with other families who also know the person; ask them what their relationship is like with the suspect.
Limit your child’s online activity.
Ask your child how they feel about the person by asking questions like ‘Do you like the way Person X acts around you?’ or ‘what type of activities do you do when Person X babysits you?’
Encourage your child to open up by asking questions like ‘Is anything worrying you?’ or ‘Are you OK?’
Here at Abuse Claims UK, we are highly experienced in helping our clients to receive the justice they deserve. Speaking out can be extremely difficult, but our team of dedicated solicitors are here to help in a professional, non-judgmental environment. Call our team today on +0151 242 5111 for free, confidential advice.