What is online grooming and how does it occur?
Grooming happens when someone builds a friendship or romantic relationship with a child for the purposes of exploitation or sexual abuse.
Online groomers could be strangers, or someone they may know – a friend of a friend for example. Groomers use all sorts of tactics online to engage with children; this could be achieved by gaming with them, talking to them in chat rooms, by giving them compliments on their appearance on social media or in some cases by blackmailing them.
How are relationships built online?
Whilst we are used to hearing stories about adults meeting each other online, many are surprised to hear that young people are also using the internet, and social media in particular, as a tool for flirting and seeking relationships. At 13 years old, children are able to access dating apps to publically search for romantic connections. Social networks such as Snapchat, Facebook or WhatsApp allow young people to privately or publically exchange romantic communication though pictures, videos and text.
What to do if you’re concerned about relationships and grooming:
- Privacy settings on your child’s online accounts should be set to a standard you’re both happy with, to ensure strangers can’t contact them online
- Private information such as your child’s home address, the school they go to, or their location should not be disclosed to people they don’t trust. Remind them of the importance of not sharing this information
- Talk to them about the dangers of grooming or speaking to strangers online, making them feel like they could come to you if they ever had any concerns or worries
- Escalate to your child’s school and the police immediately if you have any suspicions that your child may have been groomed
Relationships and grooming factsheet
Our factsheet features all of the information on this page, plus our jargon buster and links to useful websites.