Grooming is a way in which a probable predator takes into confidence a possible victim and often their family for the purpose of using them for their needs, very often sexual needs or sometimes even for trafficking. Online grooming is when individuals are targeted online with the same purpose in mind. The abuser will try to gain the trust of the individual and leverage this trust to blackmail/use them.

Online grooming can happen anywhere. In the case of children, abusers will try to go to sites which are more popular with children. They may pose as children themselves or as trustworthy adults. They will try to establish “friendships” through online gaming chat boxes or through social media. People who groom individuals need not necessarily be strangers.

Paedophiles and child abusers may use these set of tactics to sexually exploit children. These tactics could include:

  • Providing extra care, attention, and support than that is needed to vulnerable children.
  • Pretending to be in love with them and luring them into relationships.
  • Understanding the weak points in them and using that to gain their trust.
  • Subsequently, exploiting such trust to shift expectations of what good and moral behaviours are to sexually exploit children.
  • Getting them to share compromised images or creating such images without their knowledge.
  • Even if they have shared compromised images, tell them that they are not to let ugly minds define their life ahead. That there are millions of images uploaded and thousands of people who have gone through such situations and have moved on and are leading a better life.
    The most important thing to remember is not to be frightened and never to give into threats. To reach out for support when you need it. To always remember that there are more people to support than that you are led to believe.

Tell your children that, as much as the world and the internet are beautiful spaces, there are some people who can make it bad. To be aware of online safety rules and to follow them, especially regarding meeting strangers/online friends alone. Also to never share anything which anyone can use against you. If someone genuinely loves you, they wouldn’t need compromised images that might cause problems for you later on in life as everything posted online has a risk of being displayed.

For more information on this topic, please watch “Online Predators” on Bodhini Kochi on YouTube and show them news clippings on how children and adults fall into traps like these and end up in a really bad state. Teach them that there are people to support them and to reach out if in trouble. Most importantly teach them to never ever give into threats.