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What parents need to know about grooming

Grooming can happen quickly, in a matter of weeks, or develop over a longer period, months or even years. As a parent the thought of your child possibly being groomed is scary, here is everything you need to know about grooming.

What is Grooming?

Grooming is when an adult builds an emotional connection with a child or young person (under the age of 18) to gain their trust so they can abuse or manipulate for the purposes of sexual abuse, exploitation or trafficking.

Children and young people can be groomed online, in person or both. Anybody can be a groomer they do not have a particular look, they can be male or female and can be from any area of the child's life; family member, teacher, professional, friend or a complete stranger. This can even happen in your own home.

Types of Grooming

Many young people do not even recognise that they are a victim of abuse or being groomed. This is because the abuser slowly builds a trusting relationship with the victim, and in some occasions even with the family. They may believe they are in love, have a loyalty to them as they are special friends, admiration, fear and confusion.

Groomers use many different tactics to exploit the child.

Below are a few examples of grooming tactics:

  • Pretending to be someone they are not online; for example, the same age, same interests.

  • Buying gifts to create a debt.

  • Showing attention and affection.

  • Using their professional position or reputation to create trust or opportunities to be with the young victim.

  • Taking them on trips, outings or holidays.

  • Offering advice or understanding.

Grooming Online

When a child is groomed online, groomers may hide who they are (catfish) by sending photos or videos of other people, often of somebody younger than themselves to help them build a friendship and gain their trust.
The COVID-19 crisis and strict social distancing measures increased the vulnerability of children and young people, with a huge surge in screen time across the globe where traffickers had to rely on the internet to find and further exploit victims.

Regardless of age restrictions, children today have more access to social media platforms. The digital world offers many benefits to children and young people, opening up a variety of outlets for education, creativity, and social interaction. However, it also presents serious risks, including becoming victims of bullying, grooming, child sexual exploitation and trafficking. Learn more about online safety.

Groomers have access to the same sites and apps of any young person whether that be social media, facebook, instagram, snapchat, whatsapp or gaming platforms. They are able to learn about the young persons interest and use this to build a connection with them.

Signs of grooming

It can be difficult to spot the signs of a child being grooming as they may be hidden. It is important to note that 'normal' teenage behaviour may be a mask of underlying problems.

Some of the signs you might see include:

  • having an older boyfriend or girlfriend

  • underage drinking or drug taking

  • spending more time away from home or going missing for long periods of time

  • being very secretive

  • having money or new things that they can't explain

  • sexualised behaviour, language or an understanding of sex that's not appropriate for their age

  • spending more time on their devices

  • inappropriate language or sexual behaviour

Report Grooming

If you spot one or more signs of grooming, contact the NSPCC with your concerns, you can also contact your local child protection services or the police if you prefer.

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