GroomingGrooming, another word related to the internet and children we must learn. Unfortunately, nothing good comes out of it. Grooming is a tactical approach from an adult to a child, mostly with a sexual purpose. It is about insinuation, seduction and manipulation. It’s abuse. It’s a crime.

So far, in the offline world, this type of offenders used to spend months trying to gain the trust of his prey, even to the point of making contact with the family in order not to raise suspicions. But the Internet has accelerated everything.

Pedophiles move in those chat rooms which are most popular among children. They are aware of the latest trends in fashion, music and sport, to be able to present themselves as another child, or someone who is in tune with the interests of the child. The offender may be particularly adept at identifying younger children, more naive and vulnerable in a chat room, and go for it. They try to become his “special friend”.

Slowly he will obtain the child’s personal and contact information. Using tactics such as seduction, provocation, sending pornographic images, the criminal will finally persuade the child to undress, or to perform acts of a sexual nature in front of the webcam, or to send photos of the same type. Then starts cyberbullying, by blackmailing the victim to obtain increasingly pornographic material or to have a physical encounter with the child to sexually abuse him.

The step from the virtual world to the real world is gradual. Initial contact can quickly switch from an open chat room, public or semi-public, to a private chat room, then to email, SMS text messaging via mobile phones, instant messaging, and then to direct contact direct through a mobile or phone, or even by voice via the Internet.

There have been cases where the predator has sent the child a mobile phone to ensure that the child’s parents have no way of knowing, or of controlling the contact between the two.

Therefore, usually these are the steps:

1. Friendship

He will persuade the child into speaking in a private chat room so that no one else can access the child. Often, he will ask the child for a non sexual picture of himself.

2. Establishing friendship bonds

He will show interest and concern over the child’s problems in order to create the illusion in him that he is his best friend.

3. Risk Assessment

He will ask the child about the location of his computer and about who else has access to it in order to assess the risk of being detected.

4. Exclusivity

He will build a relationship based on mutual love and trust and he will suggest that with him, the child can talk about “anything”.

5. Sex talk

He will involve the child in explicit conversations and will ask him for sexually explicit images of him. At this stage, the pedophile will try to arrange a meeting with the child.

How to Prevent Grooming

1. Prevent the predator to have elements of blackmail. If there’s no element of force, no blackmail is possible.

2. It is very important to preserve the security and confidentiality of passwords of the computer. If someone steals our photos, we could be blackmailed as much as if we had sent the photos ourselves.

3. It is essential that the computer children use is well protected with a good antivirus with a firewall. Also, it is important to make sure the antivirus is always updated. Otherwise, criminals could obtain access credentials and steal blackmail material.

4. Last but not least, as parents, it is your job to convince your children that they should never download files from people they do not know well.