It’s the start of the school year in South Africa and many parents have sent their young ones to the school yard with smartphones. Despite warnings of cyberbullying and the negative impact social media may have on a child’s mental health, many parents still remain ignorant to the dangers of the online world.
This is the first blog in my #ThembaSouthernAfrica series to help educate on the dangers of the online world – #ThembaSouthernAfrica is a nonprofit programme that I designed to assist Youth, Educators and Parents with Online Safety Resources. The programme is currently being managed by myself and Di and I invite you to get involved!
What is Online Grooming?
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.
Someone who’s grooming others online will sometimes build their trust before talking about doing anything sexual.
Anyone can groom another person. A ‘groomer’ is someone who makes an emotional connection with someone to try and make you do things like:
- have sexual conversations online or by text messages
- send naked images of yourself, which is sometimes called sexting
- send sexual videos of yourself
- do something sexual live on webcam
- meet up with them in person.
They might be old, or young. And they can be male or female.
Signs of Online Grooming
- Sends your child lots of messages
Frequent messages can take place in lots of different ways, for example through Facebook, text messaging and chat rooms
- Asks your child to keep conversations secret
They might ask your child to not tell anyone that they are talking to them and say that it’s their ‘special secret.’ They might also ask your child if she/he trusts them or make them feel like they can’t trust their friends or family
- Try to find out more
They may ask your child about who else uses home computers or which room your child’s computer is in, to find out if they could get caught by parents or carers
- Starts sending your children sexual messages
This might be really subtle at first. They could start to say nice things about your child’s appearance or body or ask things like “have you ever been kissed?”
- Get your child to share personal information
They might want your child to tell them secrets about themselves or share personal details about where they live or go to school. Or they might ask your child to keep in contact all the time, and share information about where they are.
- Try to blackmail your child
They might try to persuade your child to send sexual images by saying they’ll be hurt or upset if images aren’t sent. If your child has sent images already, they could threaten to post the images online or show them to people if more is not sent.
What can Parents do?
- Follow #ThembaSouthernAfrica online for weekly resources and help!
- Ensure that you talk with your children about social media and technology dangers. Limit their screen time and explain to them why you are putting limits in place. (All social media companies have age-limits in place to help protect young children from potential online dangers.)
- Find out which platforms your children use. If you know the platforms your children are accessing and using, then you can be better prepared! Knowing this information can help you protect your child.
- Install software/filters to stop your children accessing the inappropriate sites. There are many pieces of software that can allow you to block access to certain sites that you feel may be inappropriate for your children. (Google Family Link is a good app to investigate)
- Make sure your children know they can always come to you with any issues. Ensuring your children know that you will help them with any issues they may have online can help prevent them from keeping any problems to themselves and enabling them to get worse.
- Teach your children to be aware of strangers online and that if they don’t know someone who’s trying to talk to them they must: SCREENSHOT, REPORT AND BLOCK.
- Keep a look out for abnormal behaviour or changes in your child’s behaviour. If they start to be more secretive about what they do online, it could be a sign of grooming or cyberbullying.
- Keep an eye out for potential gifts that your children may have received. Normally groomers will buy electronic related gifts such as phones and data vouchers, enabling them to chat without your knowledge.
- Ensure your children know that they should never meet up with strangers they meet online. We always teach children not to talk to strangers on the street but they need to understand that talking to someone online is just a dangerous!
Online Grooming source: https://www.childline.org.uk/