The grooming is cyberbullying deliberately exercised by an adult to establish a relationship and emotional control over a child in order to prepare the ground for sexual abuse.
They usually carry out tasks with the intention of first approaching the child and gaining their trust to later establish a relationship and emotional control of it.
Its purpose is to sexually abuse him, so that the harasser or groomer will proceed with the child having physical contact or simply virtually, thus obtaining child pornography.
The actions that the harasser or groomer usually performs are closely related to pedophilia and pedophilia. These can be crimes of child prostitution, sexual abuse etc.
Some information about grooming
Below, we will see some figures of a study conducted by ACPI and PROTEGELES for the Ombudsman for Children in 2002, on the browsing habits of minors in Spain, in which some worrying data were obtained:
- Among the minors who participated in the study, 30% had provided their telephone number at some time.
- 16% have provided their address through the network.
- The percentage that has remained with strangers on the Internet or Social Networks is 14.5%.
- 54.5% have not received information or training on basic safety rules when using the Internet either from the school or from home.
- Almost the total of all the young people who participated in the study, 86% can access all the contents of the computer since they do not have or do not have any program that filters the contents.
- 44% of children have felt sexually harassed.
- 11% have been victims of insults by other internet users.
- 4% have received unsolicited emails with unpleasant content and another 1.5% report having felt fear on occasion.
As we can see is a problem that affects many children, not only in Spain but throughout the world.
Types of grooming
We find two variants in the way in which the harasser can carry out sexual harassment through the Internet according to the guide that the United Nations Children’s Fund UNICEF and the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights (2014) made:
- Grooming cases in which the harasser achieves the material without having had a relationship with the child at any time previously on the Internet.
This one obtains the material that he wants through the obtaining of the passwords of the minor or through the photos that the minor has posted on social networks.
Once the harasser has obtained this material, blackmail and extortion to the child will begin, threatening to disclose it if it does not facilitate him or not.
- The other case is that the harasser seeks the confidence of the child to deliver the material, chatting with him through any forum or social network. In this way it is the minor who provides the material, since the harasser has earned his trust.
Phases of grooming
In grooming there are a series of steps by which the harasser manages to gain the confidence of the child and perform the crime:
Contact and approach
First, the harasser will try to contact the minor through social networks or a chat. To do this, it is often passed off as a minor who is similar in age to his victim and who also has an attractive physical appearance. Its main objective is to gain the child’s confidence little by little.
Also known as sexting. Once the child’s confidence has been gained, the groomer can get the child to send him photos or even turn on the webcam posing naked for him totally or partially.
If the harasser gets some material from the child that can be compromised for it, he will begin to threaten him if he does not agree to what the harasser asks him to do. This phase is included in cyberbullying.
Abuse and sexual assault
After the previous phase, when the minor sees that the threats do not cease, he will accede to the demands of the harasser, being able to get to maintain physical relations.
What are their manifestations or symptoms in children?
As we can already see, the effects for the victims and the people around them come or can become very negative, as it happens with other risks that the minor can suffer on the Internet such as cyberbullying or cyberbullying, sexting …
Children undergoing grooming can suffer psychological problems. The effects that these psychological problems can have can be more serious than if the sexual abuse had occurred in person.
As parents and mothers we must be alert to the following symptoms:
- Children undergoing grooming can wet the bed, suck their finger or have fears that they did not have before.
- Sleep problems may also appear, headache without apparent explanation.
- In addition, weight losses or rapid variations of weight usually appear.
- Frequent physical injuries without reasonable explanation: cuts, hits, etc.
- Anxiety, anger.
- Changes in mood may also appear.
- They can even hide the phone or the computer when using it if there is someone in front.
Grooming can also affect the child’s life at school:
- It can affect your school performance negatively.
- Problems of attention and concentration also appear in addition to learning.
- Due to the above, they do not want to go to school.
- When you are in contact with an adult with these characteristics, you can use a language that is not according to your age.
- You can even be afraid of open spaces like recess. You can also look for the proximity of adults or be located in corners, walls and spaces protected and visually controllable.
- Problems of learning, attention and concentration.
Profile of the victims
Every person, whether minor or adult, can be a victim of sexual harassment through the internet. Below is a table with the two possible groups of victims considered to be at risk according to the European Commission (2012):
Source: Monographic about grooming (2015)
Profile of the harasser or groomer
According to El-Sahili (2014) there are different profiles of stalkers. While some only want pornographic material, others want to maintain contact with the child.
According to the project carried out by the European Commission in 2012 we can distinguish three types of groomers or stalkers:
- Groomer “Search for privacy”: does not use photos of minors to impersonate them, on the contrary, they are shown as they are. His goal is usually to get a relationship with the child, so they spend a lot of time talking with him. They think that the contact is allowed by the minor, so they do not believe it is a crime.
- Groomer “Adaptive style”: this type of harasser usually adapts its identity and its style of harassment as the process progresses. He has computer equipment to practice harassment and usually has a criminal record.
- Groomer ” Hypersexualized “: usually the most intense type of groomer, since they consume extreme adult pornography. In their profiles there are usually pictures of their genitals and usually have previous convictions. Through communication with other stalkers they get images of this type.
What to do if my child suffers grooming?
As in any other situation, it is recommended to report this type of action as soon as possible, because as we have said before, the minor can suffer both physically and mentally due to the abuses by the harasser.
Sometimes, the child may feel shame for what happened and for this reason, not want to denounce the grooming facts in person. For these cases there is the option of providing data and alerts to the National Police, Civil Guard or the Autonomous Police anonymously. A third option would be to go to associations, entities and NGOs that have the objective of protecting minors.
In the case of the minor, the formal complaint must be filed on his behalf by the persons entitled to do so, who are the parents, the legal representatives of the minor or the Public Prosecutor in case of being alerted by other persons.
In the event that a teacher observes that a child may be suffering from grooming, he or she should contact the parents or guardians of the child urgently or even inform the authorities.
It is recommended that evidence of harassment be provided at the time of the complaint such as recorded conversations or screenshots of the messages that have been received. Bearing in mind that many times they do not have judicial validity, since there is no evidence of their veracity or of their origin.
In these cases, the tests with judicial validity are those that can be facilitated by service providers, such as telephone operators or companies that manage social networks.
How should educators act from the centers?
According to Luengo (2014), the centers have the obligation to act in front of this type of facts in case they have suspicion or knowledge that some student is suffering it. If a teacher is the one who suspects or has detected that a student may be suffering from grooming, the center must inform the parents or guardians of the child.
If, on the other hand, it is the parents or guardians who do not give an adequate response or do not report the situation, the center must inform the authorities and make a report.
What can I do from home to prevent it?
To reduce the risks that our children may suffer this type of abuse we must perform the following steps:
- Teach the minor to make good use of new technologies.
- Educate so they do not give personal information to strangers in the network or do not accept people they do not know in social networks. It is also recommended that they be taught to configure their privacy profile.
- Discuss with the child why these things happen or ask if he has been harassed or if he knows in his environment any case of these characteristics.
In addition we can also teach them technical issues:
- Try to make the risks known and how the protection tools work.
- In order to recommend not to enter pages that do not know, in addition to using passwords with 8 digits and change them periodically.
- As fathers and mothers, we must limit the use of these technologies to avoid dependency and to come into conflict with your other activities.
- Finally, establish age criteria to start using the devices and to access different content and services.
Strategies and recommendations for minors
Some strategies and recommendations for minors could be the following:
- Do not upload to social networks or provide images to a stranger.
- Ask for help if you are living in a situation that makes you feel insecure or emotionally upset.
- Configure the privacy of social network accounts.
- Use programs so that the computer you use is safe and can not steal your passwords.