Parents need to build a strong connection with their children to be able to observe these signs that can or cannot be signs of them being groomed online. For parents to observe and identify it from outside as a third person, parents need to have open conversations with their children and actively listen to whatever they say. Whatever children might be going through or experiencing on the internet, their behavior and habits will be impacted by the same and the changes can be observed by the parents to take measures at the right time if need be.
Read part one of this article How Perpetrators of Child Sexual Abuse Groom Children Online
to know what online grooming is and how perpetrators groom children online.
Some of the signs that parents can look out for are -
- Your child is spending more time on their device than usual. They are receiving a lot of messages throughout the day or during any specific period of time.
- Unusual distractedness from life and over occupancy on their phone.
- They talk a lot about this particular person they might be interacting with.
- They want to / miss their regular activities to be on the phone or show signs of not being willing to not do their daily activities like eating their meals or going to see their friends because they are engrossed in their phone.
- They lose interest in spending time with friends and family as they spend a lot of time texting somebody.
- They avoid conversations or give vague answers about how their day was, what they are doing and who they are talking with on their device.
- Your child has enabled a password on their phone that they are not willing to share with you. They always have their phone in their hand and they do not let you go through it.
- They face inability to keep the phone aside and find themselves glued to it.
- Your child spends more than usual time alone in a room during the time when the family usually gathers in the living room for common time.
- They shy or blush looking at their devices and are constantly chatting / texting somebody.
- You see them taking pictures of themselves or find out that they have been taking a lot of pictures of themselves and some can show or highlight their private parts.
- They seem tense and lost which could be due to the discomfort that might come from the sexual nature of the final stage of grooming.
Please note that these may or may not be the signs of your child being groomed online, but these are definitely the signs that require you to pay attention to the cyber habits of your child, have a conversation with them about cyber threats and how to stay safe from them. Make sure you create a safe space for them and assure that it is conveyed to them that they can reach out to you when they face any uncomfortable situations online.
Similar to in-person grooming, the main reason for online grooming to work is by building trust between the predator and the child. The only one way in which online grooming is different from grooming in person is that online predators can lie about their name, age, gender, life experiences and everything else. So, while the child thinks they know who they are talking to, they could have no idea who is behind the screen.
Check out the part three of this article 10 Ways in Which Parents Can Keep Children Safe From Online Grooming to educate yourself about how you can keep your child safe from online grooming