Thousands of children have been subjected to online grooming all around the world. Grooming is a dangerous process in which cyber predators target young children and, in most cases, groom them with an intention to exploit them sexually or harm them. Cyber Predators are grooming children online via social media platform Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp etc. There is sharp increase in online grooming crime this year due to the unique situation caused by Covid-19. It is time for all the parents and children to understand the modus operandi of such predators, protect their children and alert the agencies. In this article we will understand the grooming processes, stages and protection mantra from cyber grooming.
Grooming refers to an act that deliberately aimed to establish an emotional connection and trust with a child or young person in order to cheat and trap them in committing forgery or sexual exploitation. It is an act where the predator targets a child online, build a virtual relationship, gain child’s trust and exploit the child. As the children get trapped, they find themselves powerless, scared, shamed and helpless to such an extent that they even commit suicide.
A 15 yrs old girl name Amy (not a real name) was bullied by her classmates in school and could not make any friend. She was lonely and due to continuous bullying in schools she found difficult to mix up with other people. She started using social networking site to make some virtual friends. In very quick time she was able to make many friends online. She used to accept online friend request from strangers. She found one of the friends, another 15-year girl to be very caring, friendly and jovial. She shared all her worries and so was the friend. Soon both started exchanging pictures of each other. Gradually both started sharing ‘how they are growing pictures’ with topless photographs. Soon, her new friend started blackmailing her to meet her personally and threatened that if she does not meet, her nude pictures would be posted on Facebook and other social media platforms. After two days, she found her picture on Facebook with her name and picture. Thankfully, she shared this ordeal with her mom. Soon her parents reported the matter to police. During the investigation it was found that Amy’s new friend was not a girl, it was actually a middle-aged man who had created a fake profile of 15 years of girl and added some unknown girl’s picture in her post and profile. Amy was lucky and the groomer was caught on time before any further damage was done to Amy. But there are hundreds of incidents wherein the child felt shamed and committed suicide or surrendered for exploitation.
Few of the comments from such victims that were published in recent years is an eye-opener:
Stages of grooming:
Cyber grooming happens in stages when one stage is completed cyber predator moves on to next stage and keep tricking the victim until the last stage is completed which is ultimately the exploitation of the victim. The grooming stages are as follows:
Stage 1: Connect:
Stage 2: Establish Trust
Stage 3: Establish Secrecy
Stage 4: Desensitize Shyness
Stage 5: Direct intimidation
Final Stage: Byte the Prey
Danger Signs of ‘Groomed’ Child:
The grooming process and methods are different. The whole process depends on victim’s social and mental condition, his/her family environment. After assessing victim’s situations cyber predator places his/her bet. These predators are very skilled in deceiving the children. However, few are the most common signs which can alert any person to know if the child is being groomed:
Protection Mantra for Children:
Protection Mantra for Parents to save their children:
Cyber grooming is a real danger especially for adolescent children when they surf Internet. The intensity of trauma in victim is so high that majority of them commit suicide. It is essential for us to recognise this as a big evil of cyber world and fight it out collectively. The protection mantra lies in our understanding of the modus operandi and a friendly environment at home to discuss them regularly with children.
Weseso is a non-profit organization which works for cyber safety of the society with students as agents of change.
To learn more about cyber security read weseso blogs, written by students from different schools. You can also write blogs and take part in various knowledge sharing discussion. To get involved, you first need to become a cyber warrior and become a part of larger community who are committed to secure family, friends and society from cyber crime.
To know how to become a cyber warrior, click the link: https://weseso.org/how-to-become-a-cyber-warrior/