By Jasmine London-Thomas

The year was 2008, I was 12 years old, and social media was booming. My friends and I were on instant messaging sites such as AIM, Meebo, etc. Some people we met on these social media sites were around our age group, while others were not. My age group has dealt with older people online, but we weren’t aware that it was the grooming of children at the time. The term grooming refers to the practice of developing relationships, trust, and emotional connections with children and young people and then using them as a means of manipulating, exploiting, or abusing them. Despite the fact that groomers come from all races and genders, their primary method is through social media and online video games. Among the ways someone would groom a child is by pretending that they are younger, by being understanding and giving attention, and even by giving them money as a gift. According to statistics “According to the F.B.I., over 50 percent of the victims of online sexual exploitation are between the ages of 12 and 15. An estimated 89 percent of sexual advances directed at children occur in Internet chatrooms or through instant messaging.” (n.d) However, there are some tips that caregivers and educators can use to talk to their children about online safety.

Tips on preventing grooming online:

  • Have open communication with the young child and or adolescent
  • Educate them about online dangers
  • Teach them how to set boundaries when they are online
  • Monitor their online activity

Conversation starters:

  1. Have you ever received any messages from someone online that made you feel uncomfortable?
  2. Do you know how to identify fake profiles or accounts online?
  3. Have you ever felt pressured to do something online that you didn’t want to do?
  4. Have you ever been asked to meet someone you met online in person?

Learn more:

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