Knowing how to identify and stop grooming is one of the most important parts of online safety. Here is the meaning of grooming and how to handle it!
While the increased accessibility that the internet has brought has been great, it also has its downsides. It can be easy to get incredibly damaged by an evil person online, especially for a young person who doesn’t fully understand the implications of their actions on the web. One of the most common destructive things that can happen online is grooming.
Grooming has become a massive problem over the past several decades. Ever since social media, chat rooms, and instant messaging have become primary ways of mostly anonymous communication, the internet has become a more dangerous place. Of course, many of these issues can be avoided with a good understanding of online safety and security. While grooming is never the victim’s fault, a little bit of education can help you and your loved ones be much safer online.
This is what grooming is, what it looks like, and how to avoid it at all costs.
What Is Grooming?
According to the dictionary of American English, grooming (ˈɡruːmɪŋ) is a process in which a predator lures and convinces a person — usually a child or minor — into becoming the victim of a sexual offense. Grooming of the most widespread ways child abuse and sexual abuse amongst adolescents happens in the modern world.
Most times, the grooming process initiates over the internet in a chat room or messaging service. The groomer will slowly form an emotional connection between them and the victim to incite sexual activity between them. This can also look like an adult forming a friendship with a minor with the intention of making it easier to take advantage of them sexually.
Grooming can also happen IRL, so it’s important to know the signs of grooming online and offline.
What Does Grooming Look Like?
Grooming can happen anywhere, from online chatrooms to IRL extracurricular activities.
Preditors can initiate grooming over online chat rooms or messaging centers, including apps not explicitly designed for messaging. Gaming apps, forums, and other types of apps that have centers for communication all risk being a place where grooming is initiated. For secrecy, most people interested in grooming will refrain from using their phone numbers because that makes them more easily traceable. However, with help from legal professionals, groomers can be traced through almost all apps and services.
Most times, grooming starts out seeming like an innocent and playful conversation. However, as time goes on, the relationship between the two people will become more focused on physically meeting up. It may even become something that seems scary and threatening. That’s why it’s so important to be as fully aware of what grooming is as possible. If your gut tells you or someone you love that something doesn’t feel right, the right choice is often to leave the situation.
It may seem rude to “ghost” someone just because something feels a little off, but it’s much better to be safe than sorry when it comes down to it.
As for in-person grooming, close friendships between children and adults can often lead to grooming and abuse. Especially if a victim seems to separate themselves from other friends and family members, this can be a sign of grooming.
How To Avoid Grooming
When it comes down to it, if you are aware of groomers’ strategies and expected behaviors, you can more easily spot grooming before it happens. Of course, grooming can be very sneaky, and it’s not always possible to spot the signs.
First, if someone you met online who you don’t know very well (or at all) seems to be in a rush to meet you in person, that’s a pretty big red flag. If someone you met online wants to meet up with you or a child in person, their intentions are probably not good. Don’t talk to strangers online, and never meet up with people you don’t know IRL.
Another thing to be wary of is someone online who asks questions or asks for suggestive information about you or a child. Even if it seems relatively harmless, this is information that they will likely use against you. Don’t give away your information, and don’t entertain their requests.
Finally, make sure that other people know about your interactions with people online. Your friends and family might be able to spot red flags that you’ve missed.
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