Through the use of chat rooms, e-mail, instant messaging, “blogs” and even online games, adult strangers can establish direct one-to-one access to children.
“Distance” and children’s natural trust can lead them to forget that these people are strangers … and many of them are very good at misrepresenting who they are.
Online predators know that teens may be looking for attention and affection, are curious about sex and sometimes want to rebel against their parents. Unfortunately, there are people who will use this knowledge to hurt and exploit children. Child exploiters will promise children anything in order to gain their trust and friendship. This is done through “grooming.”
“Grooming” is a process used by sexual predators to gain control over children with the goal of exploiting them. The grooming progression is often slow and deliberate. The predator may compliment the child, be sympathetic, and perhaps even send a child money or gifts.
There are some common tactics that groomers may use and children should be aware of:
- "Let's go private." Leave the public chat room and create a private chat or move to instant-messaging or phone texting.
- "Where's your computer in the house?" To see if parents might be around.
- "Who's your favorite band? designer? film? gear?" Questions like these tell the groomer more about you so they know what gifts to offer - e.g., concert tickets; Webcam, software, clothes, CDs.
- "I know someone who can get you a modeling job." Flattery, they figure, will get them everywhere.
- "I know a way you can earn money fast." One of the tactics that snagged Justin Berry, 13, into what became his Webcam prostitution business. View video | [captioned]
- "You seem sad. Tell me what's bothering you." The sympathy gimmick.
- "What's your phone number?" Asking for personal information of any kind - usually happens at a later stage, after the target is feeling comfortable with the groomer.
- "If you don't... [do what I ask], I'll... [tell your parents or share your photos in a photo blog / Webcam directory / file-sharing network]" Intimidation - used as the groomer learns more and more about the target.
- "You are the love of my life." View video What "Amy," 15, fell for before traveling out of state to meet someone who'd groomed her.
Resource - ConnectSafely.org
“A guy threatened to come to my town if I didn’t have cyber sex with him.”
(Age 13) "The Net Effect - Girls and New Media" Published by Girls Scouts of the USA