Grooming and Cyber Stalking  

According to the NSPCC, “grooming is when someone builds a relationship, a connection, a trust and/or an emotional relationship with a child or young person, so they can manipulate, influence, exploit, control and/or abuse that person.”  The grooming of a child or young person can occur in both the physical and digital world.  Please be aware that a child is unlikely to know they have been, or are being groomed.

Anybody can be a groomer, it does not matter how old they are, their job role, their religion, race or gender.  Grooming can take place over a brief or prolonged period of time, both on and offline and can span from weeks or months to years.  Additionally, groomers can also develop a relationship or befriend the young person’s family or friends to make it appear that they are a trustworthy or authoritative figure.  So although this person may seem like a friend to you or that they are helping your child. be aware that everyone’s intentions are not always honest.

A groomer has the ability to use the same sites, games and apps as young people, and have the added ‘bonus’ of having the ability of hiding behind a screen, keyboard, avatar and even headset.  The groomer can spend time understanding and building a profile of the young person’s online behaviours, to identify their interests.  This information is then utilised to their advantage to build a relationship with with the young person or child.

Children can be groomed online through:

  • Gaming and Apps.
  • Social media networks and Forums.
  • Text messages and messaging apps.
  • Text, voice and video chats.
  • Email.

Signs a young person may be being groomed…

  • The signs that a child is being groomed or is speaking to a stranger are not always clear.  They may also try to hide the fact that they are speaking to someone, as they may know it’s wrong or have been told to keep it a secret.  If your child is in the 11-16 age bracket, they may behave in a way which is deemed as ‘normal, for their age, i.e. secretive with their phone and digital devices.
  • You may notice your child is being secretive about how they’re spending their time online.
  • Have you noticed that your child has new digital devices, (such as a mobile phone) and are secretive about how they got it?
  • Are they spending more or a smaller amount of time online or on their devices?
  • Does your child seem to be expressing sexualised behaviour, using sexualised language or have knowledge of sex that’s not appropriate for their age?
  • How are they spending their time offline? Is your child spending more time away from home, disappearing for prolonged periods of time?
  • Each child is different and what may be ‘normal’ for one may not be normal for another.  Does your child seem to be unhappy, withdrawn or troubled?  On the flip side, do they seem unusually happy when they are on their devices?  This could be a sign of being devoted to the person they are speaking to.
  • If you think you or someone you know may be being groomed, please contact the police by calling 999 with evidence, or as much information as you can to help them trace the culprit.

Cyber Stalking 

Since the growth of the internet it’s become easier for people who stalk, harass or initiate unwanted contact to do so more discreetly and frequently, as they can combine both online and offline stalking activities. Being cyber stalked can be just as frightening as being stalked in the real world, with the added problem that the person can access your information 24/7, as well as being able to maintain distance from you.  Obviously for the person who is being stalked, this is a highly undesirable and can cause discomfort, distress and even result in mental trauma.

If you or someone you know is being stalked online you can…

If you think you, or someone you know may be being cyber stalked, please contact the police on 999 with evidence of the stalking activities to help them trace the culprit.  To find out more information, click on the buttons below.

  • Use the privacy settings on how the person is contacting you to block and report the profile (find out how to change your privacy settings here)
  • Do not accept requests from profiles you do not know.
  • If you know your cyber stalker, delete any people that you know through them or could be connected, or that may be giving them information.  If you are worried about offending people, educate friends, family and work colleagues to the risks and how you have been feeling.
  • Take a look at what online information exists about you on your online profiles and keep it to a minimum.  A lot of platforms have features where you can view your profile from an outsider’s eyes.
  • If you feel like the person may have access to your profiles or emails, it’s a good idea to regularly change your e-mail and passwords for key online accounts, and make sure they are kept in a safe place.  Make sure they do not have access to the back up password information.
  • Screenshot and print the messages or notifications in case they need to be used as evidence.  Avoid public forums or bargain sties, etc where they can potentially watch how you are communicating with other.

Who can you contact if your child is being groomed or cyber stalked?

If you think you or someone you know may be being cyber stalked, please contact the police on 999 with evidence of the stalking activities this can help them trace the culprit. To find out more information from the following organisations, click on the buttons below.

HollieGuard – New Personal Safety App

Hollie Guard came about following the murder of Hollie Gazzard, who was 20 years old when she was stabbed multiple times by her ex-boyfriend, Asher Maslin, 22, on February 18, 2014.  In the wake of her death, Ms Gazzard’s family set up a trust in memory of the hairdresser, and partnered with mobile security company Panic Guard on the Hollie Guard app.

 In danger?  A simple shake or tap activates Hollie Guard, automatically sending your location and audio/video evidence to your designated contacts. To download the app, please click the relevant link below.

Need help with any other digital issues?  Find out more.

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