Nowadays, most children and adolescents under 18 years of age spend a large part of their day on the Internet, either because of school obligations or as a means of distraction. However, there is one issue that represents a constant danger to minors on the web: grooming.
For many parents, grooming may be a totally unknown topic, but it is a word that identifies virtual child abuse practices, one of the most important dangers for minors on the Internet.
Do you know how to identify when a minor may be a victim of grooming? In this article we have created a brief guide for parents, with which you will be able to know and detect each of the signs that can alert about a possible case of child abuse through the web.
What is grooming?
Grooming is a term used to identify child harassment practices on the Internet, in which an adult takes advantage of the vulnerability of a minor through the web to harass them and force them to perform any type of inappropriate or sexual activity.
There are many situations in which a stalker can take advantage of a minor on the networks. In general, the most common cases occur when an adult creates fake profiles, pretending to be a minor, to capture the attention of a child and ask for personal photographs of explicit content.
How to detect and prevent grooming?
Although the ideal is to maintain constant control over the content and web pages that minors visit on the Internet, most of the time this is almost impossible, due to the large amount of content that a person can be exposed to on the web.
However, there are certain recommendations that you can give to your child so that they remain alert to this type of situation. Here are 6 of the most important ones:
- Teach them not to accept strangers on their social networks.
- Make sure that the passwords your child uses for his or her social networks are sufficiently secure.
- Prohibit them from dating people they have met on the Internet.
- Make sure they do not post personal information. They should not disclose information about the school they attend, address, photos of family members and information about places they frequent, in order to avoid contact with potential stalkers.
- Make sure they always keep their networks private.
- Teach them that under no circumstances should they share personal photos on the web.
Remember that the Internet is a place where anyone can pose as someone trustworthy, in order to gain the minors’ confidence and then harass them in different ways.
Don’t let this happen to your children. Talk to them clearly about the dangers they can be exposed to on the web, and give them the necessary confidence so that they can come to you in case they feel harassed by an unknown person.
What should I do in case of grooming?
If you suspect that your child may be a victim of online harassment, it is important that you know how to act appropriately and responsibly, so that you can report the case of grooming to the competent authorities.
First of all, it is important that you try to have a dialogue with the minor. Avoid accusing or shaming him/her for what happened. Remember that it is important that they feel confident enough to tell you in detail what happened.
Try to gather as much information as possible about the case. Save the conversations the child has had with the stalker, photographs and any information that may be useful for the authorities to investigate the incident.
Finally, do not remain silent. Report the case to the nearest prosecutor’s office, so that the authorities can solve the case and do justice, preventing this type of crime from continuing to be committed.
A crime that must be reported to the law
Worldwide, the fight against grooming and virtual child harassment has become increasingly stronger. During the last months, with the increase in the use of the Internet due to the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic, the cases of child harassment through the web have registered a worrying increase in several countries worldwide.
In Latin America, specifically in countries such as Argentina, Chile and Ecuador, the term grooming is considered a criminal offense, referring to the online sexual harassment of minors, with penalties of between 6 months and 10 years imprisonment for the harassers.
In addition, campaigns have not been long in coming. In most countries there are different advertising campaigns calling to be aware of the dangers of grooming, as well as to report cases in which minors may be under the dominion of a stalker.
The task of informing the population about this type of danger belongs to everyone. You can also be part of the change. Join this movement and let’s put an end to child abuse around the world. Let’s make our voices heard and prevent more children from becoming victims of grooming.