ARTICLES, INTERNET SAFETY. FACTS ABOUT CYBER BULLYING
Preventing Online Grooming
Grooming someone means to prepare or train them for a specific purpose. Adults will groom children by working their way into their lives and initiating inappropriate contact for their own sexual satisfaction or exploitation. Often they gain the child’s trust by building a relationship with them, and with the advent of social media and online chatrooms — this is easier than ever.
In a minute, an adult man can log in online and suddenly become a 15-year-old. Most verification processes online aren’t thorough, so it’s easy for predators to slip in and comb through sites looking for underage people to talk to. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to improve the online verification process. And any attempts made to tighten security would mean a decrease in users.
So what can we do?
It’s alarming how fast a groomer can work. Research done in the UK suggests that an online predator can succeed in persuading a child to meet with them within half an hour of initiating conversation. As a parent, this should alarm you. Today’s generation is very comfortable with making friends online — and this leaves them very vulnerable. If their online friendship escalates to a meeting, the likelihood of sexual exploitation is near 100%. So how can we protect our kids?
Tips to prevent online grooming:
- When your child gets their first online account, have a discussion with them about who they should or should not be contacting. Strongly encourage – or demand – that they only have contact with people that they know in real life. Teach them what they’re allowed to share online — especially if strangers can see it. No photos or videos of themselves or their location. Instruct them to let you know each time they make contact with someone new online.
- Let your kid know that people are often dishonest online. Teach them that it’s very easy for people to lie about their age, or gender, or location. And that, unless they know the person in real life — they could be talking to anyone.
- Be aware of what services your child is using. Become a friend, follower, or subscriber on each of those services (whenever you can). Ask your child to tell you when they join a new service.
- Don’t be overly strict. If you go ahead and ban everything, your child will most likely try and hide their usage from you. Instead, encourage open and honest conversations about what they are doing online. Set up clear rules that allow your child some freedom, while still allowing you to monitor their activity. For younger children, it’s fair to know all their online passwords so you can check on their activity.
- Be aware of who your kid is talking to. Ask them about the people they interact with online — be careful not to sound accusing. Discourage contact with people you don’t also know. If you have concerns about any individual, ask to see the message between them and your child. Explain your concerns to your child. Trust is a two-way street. If you want them to be open and honest, you have to be also.
- Let your kid know that you love an support them no matter what. Show them that they can come to you with any issue and you will support them and help them in any way you can. Whatever they might have done, let them know that you will not shame them and that you are there to help them.
KidSMART came up with an acronym to help your child remember how to stay safe online.
S – Safe
Stay safe online by keeping personal information to yourself, like passwords, location, email address, or phone number.
M – Meeting
Don’t meet in person with someone you met online! If you are going to meet someone you met online, make sure your parents approve and are present.
A – Accepting
Don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know! Also, don’t open files from unknown senders, open images, or text. They can contain viruses or inappropriate messages.
R – Reliable
People online aren’t reliable. They could be lying about who they are, so it’s best not to implicitly trust anyone you meet online. If you choose to chat online, it’s better to do so with people you already know.
T – Tell
If something makes you feel worried or uncomfortable, tell your parents or a trusted adult! There never needs to be secrets between kids and their parents.
Most kids aren’t even aware that they are being groomed. Most often, they believe they are talking to someone their own age on the other side of the world. This can make it hard to spot if your child is in danger. However, if your child has/is being groomed, they might start to show some of the following signs of sexual abuse:
- Emotional and behavioural changes.
- Sudden withdrawing from family and friends.
- Becoming secretive and isolated.
- Lack of interest in extracurriculars.
- Indicating plans to meet with people you don’t know in strange places.
If you notice these signs or see anything potentially illegal, go to www.cybertip.ca or call the police. The sooner you report your concerns, the less likely your child will experience any real harm as a result of their encounter.
Preventing Grooming – Advice For Parents
How To Prevent Online Grooming
Online sexual exploitation: What parents should do