Online life is an everyday occurrence for most of us. It is normal activity to interact with our friends, peers and casual acquaintances via numerous social media and online channels. With this ever-developing technical world, which grows forever more sophisticated; it is becoming easier to reach out to people like never before.
Children are introduced to technology from the moment they are born. It is now a part of normal, everyday life. It is the responsibility of parents, guardians and anyone with a duty of care to ensure the correct safeguarding is in place to keep children safe not just from what they are looking at and what they can access, but who they are talking to whilst online?
Online grooming is when someone uses the internet to trick, force or pressure a young person into doing something sexual. They might be old or young and can be male or female.
Someone who is grooming others online will try to build a child's trust before talking about doing anything sexual. This take place over a long period of time and a young person can be tricked into thinking they are talking to someone of an age and with interests similar to themselves.
Signs of online grooming can include:
Receiving many messages via different outlets such as chat rooms, social media, text messages etc.
When someone asks you to keep your conversation secret
Someone wants to know who has access to your device (so they don't get caught!)
Send lots of messages with a sexual nature such as complimenting the way you look, asking if you have ever been kissed
Requests for more personal information such as what school you attend or where you live
Use of blackmail if you do not do as they ask - for example persuade you to send sexual images of yourself by saying they will be hurt or upset if you don't or threaten to post images sent already if you don't send them more!
Inspector Doug Downing, Tactical Lead for the Management of Sex Offenders and Violent Offenders (MOSOVO) says; "As part of this month's #CyberLife campaign, this week's focus is on children and young people and how we can keep them safe whilst using digital devices online.
"With schools breaking up for the summer holidays this week, young people will no doubt be spending more time on their digital devices.
"Please talk to children in your care about the dangers of talking to strangers online. Be aware of what your child is doing... are they using chatroom facilities attached to gaming or have they accepted friend requests from people they do not know?"
Children need to be aware how they can report and manage suspicions of online grooming. Have that awkward conversation with them now to help safeguard them in the future.