Staying safe online is of growing significance as technology develops and is more widely used.
Cyber bullying and online grooming are two of the most common things people are susceptible to via social media, chat rooms, dating apps, gaming sites and instant messaging. Neither of these things are acceptable but there are lots of ways to prevent/ stop them and get support.
Online grooming is when someone uses the internet to trick, force or pressure a young person into doing something sexual - like sending a naked video or image of themselves.
A groomer will often build someone’s trust before talking about doing anything sexual. It’s not always easy to tell if someone’s trying to groom you, but there is always someone here to help.
What is online grooming?
A 'groomer' is someone who makes an emotional connection with someone to try and make them do things like:
> have sexual conversations online or by text messages
> send naked images of yourself, also referred to as sexting
> send sexual videos of yourself
> meet up with them in person.
They can be any age or gender, although it is common that a groomer is older but pretends to be a younger person of similar age to the person he is grooming.
While networking and contacting people online is convenient and a great way to communicate, it's important to understand the dangers of talking to someone, when you don't know them.
If you send someone sexual photos or videos of yourself, you lose control over what happens to them. The other person may end up sharing them with other people who might then keep sharing them. Someone may even use images you’ve sent to blackmail you by threatening to post them online if you don’t keep sending more images. However there are people and organisations that can help you if you’re experiencing this, and Youth in Romsey is one of them!
Signs of grooming
Online groomers are easily able to lie about who they are because they don’t have to reveal their identity/ appearance online. This can make it difficult to know if someone is an online friend, or if they're trying to get you to send them sexual images or videos.
There are various signs that someone may be grooming you to try and get you to send sexual images or videos…
> Send you lots of messages
> Ask you to keep your conversations secret
>Try to find out more about who uses your computer/ what room its in to avoid getting caught
> Start sending you sexual messages e.g. appearance/kissing etc
> Get you to share personal information such as your secrets, where you live/ go to school
>Try to blackmail you into sending sexual content
It can be hard to spot if you are being groomed, feeling uncertain about it or you may feel like you’ve done something wrong – but please know that you haven’t. You can always contact us to get support and talk about it or if you need urgent support outside of the working day, Childline can be contacted 24/7 for free and confidential support just like ours.
The Internet Watch Foundation
If you are under 18 and someone has shared a sexual image or video of you online you can make a report to the Internet Watch Foundation without anyone getting involved. They will speak to the website to try and get it removed.
Making a report can be daunting, but remember its what the IWF is designed for and they will be used to receiving that kind of request. If you are worried about it and want to talk to someone before taking any further action, you can contact Youth in Romsey for support and guidance.
Grooming doesn't only happen online ...
When people are online, they can hide who they really are. They might send you a photo or video they say is of them when it isn't actually them. So it's important to be really careful and not trust people online if you can't be sure who they are. However it is also possible to be groomed without Internet and technology.
It can happen with people you've already met in person, for example through your family or at a club you go to.
If someone is an abuser, they might be nice to you, give you their attention and buy you presents. Once you start to trust them more, they might try to start to turn your relationship into something more sexual and possibly threaten you with violence so that you don't tell anyone.
People like this can be very convincing and will try really hard to get you to do what they want. If something doesn't feel right, it's a good idea to tell someone you trust.
Think you’re being groomed? Here’s what you can do…
Firstly don’t worry about getting in trouble – you have not done anything wrong.
There are number of options you could try, and what you chose to do is completely up to you and your feelings on it.
> Ask the person to stop and tell them you feel uncomfortable
> Although it may feel embarrassing, telling an adult you trust can help hugely in getting support and stopping the grooming
> Contact us for free support and advice
> Download Childline’s Zipit app – it gives you funny images to send someone pressuring you to send something sexual
> Report it