Cyber grooming is the process of ‘befriending’ a young person online “to facilitate online sexual contact and/or a physical meeting with them with the goal of committing sexual abuse.
Cyber grooming is when someone (often an adult) befriends a child online and builds an emotional connection with future intentions of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking. The main goals of cyber grooming are: to gain trust from the child, to obtain intimate and personal data from the child (often sexual in nature—such as sexual conversations, pictures, or videos) in order to threaten and blackmail for further inappropriate material.
Perpetrators often take on fake identities of a child or teen and approach their victims in child-friendly websites, leaving children vulnerable and unaware of the fact that they have been approached for purposes of cyber grooming. Conversations often start with inconspicuous and general questions about age, hobbies, school, family and progress into questions regarding sexual experience, with groomers convincing an exchange of erotic materials. However, the child or teen can also unknowingly initiate the grooming process when they partake in websites or forums with lucrative offers such as money in exchange for contact details or intimate photos of themselves.
The anonymity and accessibility of digital technology allows groomers to approach multiple children at one time, therefore exponentially multiplying the cases of cyber grooming.
The cyber grooming process itself can happen quickly, however the negative impact on the victim can be long-term. In addition to feeling violated and betrayed, a child who has been groomed may feel responsible for or deserving of the abuse, leading to self-blame and low self-esteem. Thus, it is crucial not only to raise awareness about the dangers of cyber grooming and safe practices of internet technologies but also for international legislations to criminalize all types of child grooming.
Cyber grooming is often considered to be a gateway to more serious offenses of sexual exploitation of children.
Marchenko. “Web of Darkness: Groomed, Manipulated, Coerced, and Abused In Minutes.” Biometrica Systems Inc, Nov. 2017, biometrica.com/icmec-online-grooming/
NSPCC. “Grooming.” NSPCC, www.nspcc.org.uk/preventing-abuse/child-abuse-and-neglect/grooming/.7