Modern life has brought a whole new set of never-before-seen problems. The internet is a powerful tool that can be used for good and bad alike. Cyber crimes like cat phishing, online blackmail, or sextortion would’ve meant nothing if someone had heard these words a few decades ago. Nowadays, they are serious problems, and cyber grooming is one of them. While we can rely on investigative services like digitalinvestigation.com, it’s better to prevent the problem before it’s too late. Let’s find out how.
What Cyber Grooming Is
Cyber grooming is when a perpetrator establishes a trusting relationship with a child via social networks and fake accounts. The ultimate goal is to get explicit photos and videos. However, it can be much more dangerous since they often try to meet the child in real life.
Such crimes have no borders – the perpetrator and the victim can even be located on different continents. Often, entire groups work on blackmailing kids.
Unfortunately, not only children but also parents know little about cyber grooming. It means they don’t know how to protect their child or effectively deal with such a problem. It’s crucial to understand how this crime happens.
Usually, a perpetrator contacts a child in social networks or chat rooms of online games. The perpetrator might send letters/invitations to friendship to hundreds of children and wait for someone to answer. Or they purposefully choose a victim – a child whose posts and profile make it clear that they are lonely and lack attention and care. Another case is the child’s page contains texts/photos of a sexual nature.
Perpetrators register in social networks under the guise of teenagers, indicate interests similar to the victim’s, and fill the page with the most credible information.
These people understand child psychology very well, and such crimes are easy money for them (often, they sell photos on child pornography sites or extort money from children). However, some perpetrators demand these photos for personal satisfaction.
This communication can last from one evening to several weeks before receiving the first photo. After that, a perpetrator demands money or more private materials from the child.
Signs Of Danger
How do you know if your child has become a victim of grooming? Some of the signs below may indicate the crime. In any case, you should pay attention to them.
● The child becomes withdrawn, sad, and tense all of a sudden. They start behaving differently with teachers, other children, and parents;
● They lose interest in learning, and their academic success sharply decreases;
● The child becomes absent-minded, can’t focus on anything, and spends most of the time on the phone;
● They run out of pocket money very quickly.
There are also signs for a teenager to understand that the virtual ‘friend’ is dangerous:
● The stranger pays too much attention to you and showers you with compliments, comments, and likes;
● Relationship’s development is very rapid, with a quick transition to the discussion of sexual topics;
● Switching to more private chats – for example, from Facebook and WhatsApp to an encrypted conversation in Telegram;
● The stranger sends you their own intimate photos (most often faked);
● The stranger becomes enraged if you refuse to send your intimate pics;
● A plea to keep communication confidential.
It Happened. What Do I Do?
If you find out that a perpetrator has contacted your child or heard about a crime committed against your child, first of all, remain calm. Remember that acting on emotions can lead to impulsive decisions that you may regret later.
Obviously, you can’t stay idle in this situation. However, blocking the perpetrator’s account used for communication and deleting correspondence, photos and videos is the wrong course of action since it will help the perpetrator to erase the evidence.
If it was an offline crime (it might include any sexual acts), you should ensure that the perpetrator’s clothes you found remain intact. Do the same with the crime scene: keeping all traces of the crime is essential.
Next, you should do the following:
● Report the incident to the police immediately. As an option, you can also hire cybercrime investigators. They will speed up things.
● Listen to what the child has to say. Under no circumstances should you shower your child with questions. It can cause additional stress and make it difficult for law enforcement officers to obtain information.
● Save all photos and videos (everything that concerns the crime). Take screenshots, and save the correspondence in any way possible. If the perpetrator has posted photos, videos, or information from the correspondence that compromises the child, save this information and then file a request to block and remove the content to the web platform management.
● Be prepared for the fact that the police will take away the child’s computer, laptop, or phone for additional information.
● The child might find it difficult to talk about what happened. Don’t correct or comment on their story. Trust what your kid said.
● Don’t express shame, or condemnation, don’t blame the child. Tell them you love them and help them. Remember, only the perpetrator is responsible for what happened.
● Control your negative emotions (fear, resentment, anger) because they increase the child’s anxiety and worries.
● Don’t discuss what happened with neighbors, relatives, or other strangers.
● Be prepared for the fact that the child may have emotional and behavioral problems in relationships and school. Contact a specialist. Help your child to return to their daily activities, listen to them, and talk more often.
● When a child is in trouble, all family members suffer. Don’t feel ashamed to ask for help from a specialist for yourself.
You should have a talk with your child in advance and explain how to behave in situations where a stranger on the web asks for intimate photos or videos, blackmails (requires a meeting, other photos, money), or sends their own intimate photos or videos. The kid should:
● Save the correspondence and everything that points to the stranger;
● Notify parents or other adult relatives;
● Contact the police;
● Block user.
A trusting relationship with their parents is the cornerstone of a child’s safety. Children must know their parents love them, are on their side, and are always ready to help.