Grooming is a phenomenon when someone builds an online (or real) relationship with a child and then deceives or forces the child into a certain sexual act, such as sexual video or photo.


Initially innocent conversations slowly escalate, even to explicit sexual acts

Online groomer often starts with an innocent conversation and then moves on to sexual-related conversations, sends his nude photos or recordings to a person, transmits sexual acts via a webcam, or even meets with children in person. The grooming perpetrator first builds trust with a child before talking to him about sexual topics.

Each case of grooming is specific. Online groomers are especially good at pretending, which means that children have a particularly hard time recognizing what the real purpose of the person they are engaging in conversation with is.

There is not just one 'type' of groomer. Nevertheless, the perpetrators of such acts have a characteristic modus operandi

Groomers usually:

  • send a lot of messages to children through different channels (Facebook, messages, chat rooms). It usually starts on a social network and then continues in online chat rooms;
  • tell children that their conversations and relationships are a secret. Sometimes children are even turned against their parents and friends as if they are not worthy of trust and that they can only trust him;
  • want additional information about who is also using the computer in the family and where the computer is located in the apartment, in order to prevent them from being caught by a parent or a guardian;
  • initially send children very subtle sexual messages relating to a child’s appearance or body. This is supported by questions such as: Have you ever kissed?;
  • ask for additional information, such as secrets about a child, personal data, where a child lives, which school does he/she go to, etc. Sometimes their request for information borders on controlling a child, when they expect from him/her to tell them where he/she is and what he/she is doing at any moment;
  • blackmail children for sexual photographs, sometimes on the pretext that they will be sad/angry if they do not. Even when children have already sent them such photos, the perpetrators often continue with extortion, as they want to obtain even more nude pictures and footage.

work 933061 by tookapic from Pixabay

Who the groomers are and how they initially turn a confidential relationship into an exploitative one

There is not just one ‘type’ of groomer. Many different people use the internet to deceive, coerce, or persuade children to send them their nude photos. This is often done by adults who pretend to be child’s peers, but this is not necessary - sometimes they pretend to be sports coaches, celebrities, influencers to develop a "patronizing" type of relationship with a child.

A groomer can be of any race, age or gender. Grooming can last very little time, and sometimes up to a few years. Sometimes groomers even establish friendly relationships with a child’s family to act trustworthy in front of the parents. Children need to be taught that these people can be very persuasive and that they will work hard to get what they want. That is why it is very important for children to talk about this relationship with someone if they feel that it is starting to exceed their wishes.

It is not necessary that grooming always starts on the internet. People on the internet can hide their true identity. Groomers often pretend to be children's peers, telling children that they have similar interests and problems as they have themselves, in order to establish a confidential relationship that will later turn into an exploitative one. They give peer advice to children and show understanding for his problems, they pay attention to them. Often, groomers hide behind a photo of someone else who looks like a child in terms of age. Groomers make contact with one or more children at a time and then wait for children to respond.

grooming02Sometimes grooming can also develop with a person we have met in the real, physical world. Groomers are friendly then, they pay attention to the child and buy him gifts, they take the children on trips, vacations. When a child begins to trust them, their relationship grows into a sexual one. Sometimes they then threaten the child with violence or bribe him with gifts so that the child would not tell anyone about this relationship.

Groomer uses the same sites, games, and apps that children use. He spends a lot of time getting to know the child well, inquiring about the child's interests and using this to build a relationship with him. The child may even enjoy the initial attention he or she receives from a new friend, as he or she offers support, understanding, or affirmation. Thus, by manipulation, extortion, and control, they slowly isolate the child from his/her friends and family.

Sometimes children who are victims of grooming can also become victims of sexual abuse, exploitation or human trafficking.

Children can thus become victims of grooming through social networks, emails, messages, chat rooms, forums, games and applications.

How can we determine that a child is a victim of grooming?

It is difficult to say what are the signs that could indicate that a child is a victim of grooming. Older children in particular may behave in a way that will otherwise seem normal to a teenager, but in reality masks the problems he or she is facing.

Parents should be alert when a child begins to mysteriously answer questions about how he spends his free time (including online), when he has money he didn’t get from his parents, or new things like clothes, a cell phone that he doesn’t knows how to explain the source.

DarkWebSign for an alarm is also when a child starts drinking or taking drugs, when he spends more time on social networks and mobile devices, and becomes agitated, absent or under stress. The fact that something is happening in a child's life that is clearly not appropriate for his age may also be indicated by his sexualized behavior, language or knowledge of sexuality, which is not appropriate for the child's age or understanding. Sometimes, however, because of the relationships they are exposed to online, children may spend more time away from home or even be missing for a while.

The consequences of grooming can be short-term as well as long-term. Children sometimes have problems with insomnia, anxiety or attention deficit disorder. Grooming can also lead children to self-harm, feelings of shame and guilt, eating problems, suicidal thoughts, and drug and alcohol problems.

Every child can become a victim of grooming; especially exposed are children with special needs, neglected or children who are victims of violence. Groomers will take advantage of every vulnerable point in children to be able to connect with them, and children will become dependent on groomers, which reduces the chances of them telling someone about their relationship.

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