Protect your child
Online grooming can be a difficult issue to tackle with children but there are practical tips and tools you can use to help them recognise when they are at risk and take action.
What’s on the page
With the growth of social media platforms, online games, and instant message apps, children are able to talk to anyone – friends or stranger – from around the world within minutes. This can be a benefit for many making them less isolated but for some, it can leave them vulnerable to being groomed.
From our research, we know that online ‘stranger danger’ is a concern, particularly for younger children. The key thing to remember is that by equipping children with the right advice to make smarter choices online we can minimise the risks of exposure to online grooming.
To prevent grooming from happening ensure your child is well-informed, uses privacy settings on social networks and knows they can talk to you if they feel unsafe or worried.
Private details which could identify them in the real world – name, age, gender, phone number, home address, school name, and photographs – should only ever be shared with the people they know.
Tell your child to be cautious with what they share online. Remind them that the people they have met online might feel like friends but they may not be who they say they are.
Tell them they must never arrange to meet someone they only know online without a parent present.
Tell them that if something makes them worried or uncomfortable online that they must tell an adult they trust.
The best way to deal with grooming is to prevent it happening by making sure your child is well-informed, uses privacy settings on social networks and knows that they can talk to you if they feel unsafe or worried. Teach your children how to stay safe online:
Keep personal information private
Private details which could identify them in the real world – name, age, gender, phone number, home address, school name, and photographs – should only ever be shared with people they know.
Spend time together looking at the privacy settings. It’s always best to assume that default settings are public and should be changed accordingly. We’ve got some advice on using privacy settings on the most popular social apps.
Reviewing apps, site, apps, and games they use
You will probably use social networks yourself, but you might want to know about new ones that your child is using or wants to use. Use them yourself and set up your own account so you can experience what your child might see. There are also many child-friendly social networks they could use while they get ready for the likes of Snapchat and Instagram.
Know who their friends are
Talk to them about being cautious about what they share with people online. Remind them that even though people they’ve met online might feel like friends they may not be who they say they are.
Stay safe online and in real life
Never arrange to meet someone they only know online without a parent present.
Encourage children to talk to someone
If something makes your child worried or uncomfortable online their best course of action is always to talk to an adult they trust. You can also direct them to organisations such as Childline.
There is a range of new apps and software that block, filter and monitor online behaviour. You’ll need to decide as a family whether this is the right approach for you, taking into consideration your child’s age and maturity, and their need for privacy.
Negotiating the gaming world
In some games like Minecraft or Roblox people deliberately try to intimidate other players. In multi-player games where gamers talk to one another – you might find abusive language, harassment and there have been instances of grooming. It’s vital therefore that your child knows how to report abuse and talks to you if something is causing them concern.
Let them know you are there to help them if they get into trouble online – and if they are concerned about something they can come to you.
Openly discuss online relationships and friendships
Find out what sites they go to, where they met their online friends, how they communicate and what information they share. Make sure they know that having thousands of online ‘friends’ isn’t always safe.
Talking to teens about groomers online
Teenagers may be very protective of their online network and feel you are interfering with their private lives. Take a look at this resource from CEOP, which is an excellent source of advice for communicating with older children.
Explaining online impersonation
Explain how easy it is to pretend to be someone else online, and why an adult may wish to approach them.
Teaching younger children how to stay safe online
Talk about grooming as you would stranger danger – a stranger is anyone you don’t know, whether in real life or online. Tell them they shouldn’t talk privately or give personal information to anyone they don’t know. Discuss with them what ‘personal information’ is.