Clearly, you know your child’s friends from school or the sports club. But what about acquaintances with whom your child has contact only via the Internet? Wherever children and young people communicate with each other, they can come into contact with people who have negative intentions.
What is cybergrooming?
Portals like Instagram or TikTok, where children and young people like to hang out, also attract users with pedo-criminal tendencies. This is criminal behavior directed at children and is of great concern to many parents. Adults or perpetrators may approach children with the goal of sexually harassing or even abusing them. This targeted approach on the net is called cybergrooming.
The perpetrators take different approaches: They ask very specifically about the child’s or adolescent’s sexual experiences or they publicly describe their sexual preferences. Some gradually worm their way into the child’s trust by pretending to be a peer or taking on the role of a talent scout. Subsequently, the exchange of messages can shift to private spaces, e.g., via individual messages on WhatsApp. This is especially problematic because others cannot see this private chat. There, the perpetrators try to build trust, which is later exploited, for example by asking for nude pictures of the child. With this, the child can be blackmailed later. There is a threat to publish the pictures if more photos are not sent. Or the person may even try to date the child or youth in person.
How do I protect my child from cybergrooming?
- Take the first steps in social networks together with your child. In this way, your child will learn about the different functions and rules of behavior.
- In order for your child to know about the dangers at an early age and be able to recognize them in time, talk about them in a very open and factual manner. If your child knows he or she can talk to you about such issues, he or she is likely to turn to you when encountering problems online.
- Make it clear to your child: the Internet is a public space, but you can’t always tell who you’re dealing with. Therefore, a healthy distrust is absolutely necessary. Contact requests from strangers should not be confirmed. Unknown users can also be blocked or reported.
- Private information such as full name, date of birth, address or even private pictures should never be made public by your child or entrusted to unknown persons. What is once on the Internet or sent, can never be deleted or only with great difficulty!
- Together and regularly with your child, go over the privacy settings of the platforms and apps you use and talk about them.
- Make it clear to your child that he can trust his gut. If chat content or prompts seem strange or frightening to your child, he or she should stop contact and contact you or another adult.
- When young people are active on flirting and dating apps, special caution against sexual harassment applies, since moderation by the provider and sufficient security settings do not exist everywhere. It is especially important to disable the tracking function so that your child cannot be tracked.
- Children and young people are particularly curious. Therefore, they sometimes forget all warnings and can fall into a trap. Be sure to make it clear to your child that even in such cases, the blame lies solely with the offender.
- If your child is sexually harassed, be there for your child and do not blame him or her. Report the perpetrator on the respective platform, secure evidence, e.g. by screenshots, and be sure to file a complaint with the police!
Help, advice and information can also be found here:
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