FAQs for children
What is online grooming?
Online grooming is when a person over the age of 18 contacts a child under 16 to form a trusting relationship, with the intention of later engaging in a sexual act either via mobile telephone, webcam or in person.
The relationship starts online and is often continued in person. In some cases the relationship is purely online. Online groomers are known to spend weeks, months and even years communicating with a child to form a trusted relationship.
Who are online groomers and how do they get my attention?
Online groomers can be both men and women of any age over 18, although they may not always be honest about their age. They generally get your attention by using flattery and building a ‘trusting’ relationship with you. At times you maybe unaware of the type of information you are giving them, but you do it because you feel comfortable talking to them.
What is the risk of sending images of myself?
If you decide to send pictures of yourself or post them online, you can attract unwanted attention from people you don’t know or people you do not want to be talking to. You can lose control of your image and not know who is looking at your picture or where it may end up.
If you are under the age of 18 and have a picture taken of yourself, wearing minimal or no clothing, it can be referred to as child pornography.
What if someone asks me to do something I don’t want to?
It is important that you tell someone what has happened if you are made to feel uncomfortable online. The first thing you should do is tell an adult that you trust. They will be able to help you.
You can also use the Report Abuse button, which will send an online form to the police. If you feel like you are in immediate danger, contact your local police straight away.
Blocking or deleting the person from your contact list is another good thing to do, but make sure your parents or a trusted adult is aware of what has happened too.
What is “Sexting”?
Sexting is a term used to describe the sexually explicit text messages or images sent via a mobile telephone or the internet to anybody.
Law enforcement calls this type of behaviour the production, distribution and possession of child pornography through the use of a carriage service (mobile technologies and the internet).
You could face serious penalties if you decide to send this type of image or message. You should never feel pressured into saying or doing anything like this. If someone really loves or cares about you they will never ask you to do this.
Think about how this image or message can effect you, your family and your friends if it was to be widely distributed. This type of behaviour can effect you both short and long term.
How personal is personal?
Personal information should not be placed online. Just because there is a box for you to add something doesn’t mean you have to. Try to avoid placing too much information on the internet such as your current city and date of birth. This information along with pictures makes it easier for unwanted people to identify and possibly locate you.
What if I see something I didn’t mean to look at?
If you see something online you believe could be child sexual exploitation material, you should tell a trusted adult straight away and report it to police. Even if you are unsure of what you are looking at it is best to talk to someone who can help.
FAQs for adults
What is online child sexual exploitation?
Online child sexual exploitation includes:
- making and downloading images of children being sexually abused;
- approaching a child online for sex. This could be sex online (e.g. sexual activity via text or webcam) or sex offline (e.g. grooming a child online for the purpose of meeting up for sex in the “real” world).
What is online grooming?
Online grooming refers to the deliberate actions taken by an adult to form a trusting relationship with a child with the intent of later facilitating sexual contact. This can take place in chat rooms, instant messaging, social networking sites and email.
What should I do if I suspect a case of online child sexual exploitation?
The Report Abuse button is an effective mechanism for reporting inappropriate or illegal activity with or towards a child.
If you or a child is in immediate danger, contact your local police.
What cases of online child abuse are reported to the Virtual Global Taskforce?
An example report received by the Virtual Global Taskforce is available on the case studies page.
What do children do online?
It has been reported that one of the most common uses of the internet by young people is for research for school work and general information gathering. Other activities include: downloading music, keeping in touch with friends by chat and email, and playing games. Gender differences have also been reported with boys reporting using the internet for playing games and downloading music and girls reporting using the internet for email communication and school work.
Why do parents need to get involved?
It is important to remember that the internet is a good place where children and young people can communicate, play, learn and work. However, as with many new or emerging technologies, the internet has also raised new areas of concern. An awareness of these issues by parents can help to educate and protect children and young people while they enjoying using the internet.
What expertise does the Virtual Global Taskforce have on online safety?
The Virtual Global Taskforce draws on the expertise of specialist police officers, investigators and analysts.
Where are children most at risk?
Children have reported receiving unwanted sexual solicitations in chat-rooms, while using Instant Messenger, via email, when gaming and on message boards.
How do sex offenders find children online?
Adults target children through a variety of means. Examples include:
- through member profiles in their Instant Message accounts, which often hold personal details and indicate their ages and which can be viewed publicly if a child hasn’t requested otherwise.
- by asking young people who they have met online – for example in gaming sites, to add them to their friends contact lists so that they can chat to a children’s network of friends.
- by going to child-specific chat rooms and forums to engage young people through deceit or flattery. From this public area they would then encourage the child to talk more privately through texting on mobile phone, or in instant messenger.
- some abusers will send hoax letters via email to young people, purporting to be an organisation which they are interested in – and then hope that the child responds.
Adults who want to contact children can do so quite easily online, since personal information is often not kept private in the same way that it would be online.
How do I know if my child is at risk?
Children and young people may take part in all sorts of online conversations and activities with each other, some of which may be of a sexual nature. This is a normal part of growing up. However these kind of adolescent activities are very different from the activities and conversations that an individual with a sexual interest with children can initiate.
If you have any concerns about your child’s activities on the internet, or if you find any record of inappropriate images or conversations, talk to them about your concerns as you would about any other concerns. If you remain worried, or want some help and advice, there are a variety of organisations that can assist.
Are there any signs to indicate that my child is being groomed / abused online?
The vast majority of children are not being abused online and never will be. The following activities could be perfectly innocent but is worth being alert to potential signs:
- becoming secretive;
- downloading files onto discs; and
- using encryption software.
Changes in your child’s behaviour may act as indicators and these changes can include: a change in a child’s self-esteem and self-confidence, withdrawal from the family and isolating themselves, difficulties at school, an increased level of anxiety, sleeping difficulties, concentration difficulties, and in some instances become excessively concerned with washing and cleanliness.
Other possible signs that your child might be being groomed online include: excessive use of the computer; aggression around computer usage; change in the use of sexual language; unexplained gifts or cash; and /or finding pornography on the computer.
It is important to remember that these behaviours can be a normal part of growing up, so it is important to establish the reasons why these changes are occurring and to seek help and advice if you are concerned.
Should I stop my child from using the computer?
No, this would be an over-reaction. The fear of losing internet privileges is one of the key reasons children don’t tell parents about problems online. Instead you can help to educate your child about safe ways to use the internet.
What can I do to protect my child online?
Talk to your child and reach agreement about how they will behave online.
We also recommend:
- only allowing your child to use the computer and access the internet in an open area of the house, rather than locked away in a bedroom;
- using parental control software;
- maintaining open lines of communication so you know what your child is doing online;
- encouraging your child to use moderated chat-rooms; and
- notifying the police if you have concerns about someone your child has met online.
What can I do to stop online child abuse?
Follow the advice given on this and associated sites.
Always remain vigilant and careful in your use of the internet, and report any illegal activity that you discover.
Never be tempted to carry out “vigilante” investigations on the internet in an attempt to identify offenders. Such investigations can be counter-productive to ongoing law enforcement investigations, can put you into a position where you may risk breaking the law yourself and, most importantly, they can seriously endanger the safety of real children. Please leave work of this kind to law enforcement professionals.
How do I request the use of a video or media resource on the VGT website?
To request use of Virtual Global Taskforce (VGT) videos or other VGT-related media resources, please contact the VGT Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please provide the following when making a request:
- Video or resource requested
- Reason for request (intended use of material)
*Note: All requests will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis; decisions are final and are within the sole discretion of the VGT.