Grooming is the process that an individual may use to identify potential victims and gain their trust so that they may carry out a sexual act on the child (source: victimsofcrime.org). In the digital age, grooming may occur online via social media, messaging apps, or video game portals.
Individuals with this type of behavior may extend to different adults in the child’s life including parents/step-parents, coaches, close friends, school personnel and other trusted community members. This individual, as a trusted adult, will use this type of relationship to approach children and act in sexually inappropriate ways. Often times, this individual will emphasize the importance of secrecy to minimize the potential for the child to disclose the abuse. Grooming can occur both in-person and via the internet. These individuals will build relationships with children to make them feel safe. These relationships online can be even more difficult for parents to monitor.
The internet is a platform that can be easily used to create these trusted relationships. Monitoring children’s usage on who they’re talking to and what they are talking about is key to keeping them safe. Some strategies to help monitor these interactions can include: keeping the computer/tablets in a communal space, and/or utilizing online parental monitoring resources. Three of our favorites include:
Safe Lagoon: Award winning and comprehensive, this app has several features including safe social networking, family GPS tracking, and instant message monitoring. It allows parents to keep tabs on all online interpersonal interactions. Link: https://safelagoon.com/en/
Boomerang: Get detailed text logs and set your child’s phone to only receive calls from approved contacts. Get real-time notifications when the app detects inappropriate words in text or messaging conversations. Link: https://useboomerang.com
Net Nanny: This software provides parents with instant reporting of online searches, notifications of apps used, and alerts when explicit content is detected (porn, suicide, weapons and drug related). Link: https://www.netnanny.com
The key to protecting children from grooming is to continuously monitor online interactions with not only strangers, but known/trusted individuals as well. These aforementioned software systems can help you do so in a well controlled, user-friendly manner.