The NSPCC defines online sexual grooming as “a preparatory stage of sexual abuse. Grooming oc- curs when a known or unknown adult, or member of their peer group, uses online technology to communicate with a child or young person with the intention of encouraging or manipulating them to engage in sexual behaviour.” While historically the sexual abuse resulting from grooming took place face-to-face, increasingly this involves the sharing of naked imagery. A recent NSPCC survey of other 40000 children and young people showed that, on average, nearly one child in every class had been sent a naked or semi-naked image by an adult, including those in primary school. Around half of these children and young people had sent a naked or semi-naked picture to an adult.
Of particular concern is the rise of young people livestreaming, i.e. broadcasting themselves or their friends live over the internet. Many platforms in- clude the ability to livestream including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter (via Periscope), Skype and Tik Tok (formerly Muscia.ly) There are significant risks involved in livestreaming which parents and young
people need to understand. Firstly, people behave differently online and may be prepared to engage in more risky behaviour from behind a screen and forget that other people can record the livestream to be reshown later. Users may be more in the mo- ment and these moments will not be edited out of the final cut in a livestream. Viewers can often in- teract live with the broadcasters and encourage them with gifts or flattery to do things they would not otherwise do, for example removing clothing: often, this may happen as the result of a game and the young person is tricked into the behaviour. Re- search on livestreaming of this nature shows that the child is nearly always alone with their web cam in a bedroom when this type of abuse takes place.
Parents need to ensure that younger children can- not livestream without parental involvement and even then only to friends or family. They need to follow the basic guidelines given above in the Back to School section.
Older young people need to be aware that as well as possible sexual abuse, there is the possibility
that someone will ty to sextort them. This involves the young person being blackmailed either for money or further imagery to try and prevent ex- isting imagery being shared. Often, these crimes are committed by overseas-based organised crime groups.
Where grooming, sexual abuse or sextortion hap- pen to a person under 18 years of age, there is usually a criminal offence that can be investigated by the police. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command recommends that if this hap- pens to take the following actions:
- Contact the police
- Speak to you internet service provider for assistance
- Stop all communication with the criminal
- Do not pay any money
- Preserve evidence of what has happened
For more information