Grooming is defined as cyberbullying deliberately carried out by an adult to establish a relationship and emotional control over a minor in order to prepare the ground for sexual abuse.
In some cases, it is performed between minors, but usually with an age difference, where the eldest is usually the harasser.
The objective of grooming is to gain the trust of the minor, to obtain images or videos of sexual content, and even to meet in person. These acts can constitute crimes of corruption, prostitution and sexual abuse of minors.
This type of cyberbullying is closely related to pedophilia, since many also take advantage of the images they have obtained to extort at least by spreading the images if they do not accept the conditions imposed by the aggressor.
…adult practices to gain the trust of minors, usually for sexual purposes. This happens on the internet, but sometimes, the harasser tries to establish contact in person.
Usually, “groomers” – harassers – proceed in the following phases:
- Hook: The stalker asks the victim questions in order to get to know them, asks their age and geographic location.
- Then, try to know their tastes and concerns, to adapt to them, have aspects in common and gain their trust. Here, the stalker does not press with questions that might scare or drive the child away, but rather tries to strengthen ties of friendship with them.
- Loyalty: After making friends with the victim and being friendly, interesting and with many affinities, the stalker makes sure that his new friend wants to continue talking to him. In order to achieve this, he usually talks about topics of mutual interest, sports, music, school, etc., and then continues with family issues, with whom he lives, such as his family, what their parents do, etc.
- Seduction: With all the information and confidence built so far, the harasser is dedicated to seducing, including sexual topics in the talks, and trying to exchange images with the victim. By flattering them and generating a feeling of debt in them, the stalker will get them to fulfill most of his requests.
- Harassment: At this point the harasser already has a close idea of what he can get from the child. He has his private and family information, knows their likes, fears, and has photos of him or her. The goal now becomes clearer: to establish a sexual relationship, although initially it is virtual. It is possible that at this stage the harasser shows himself as he is, and uses blackmail, threats and manipulation to achieve his goals.
On some occasions, the early stages may begin face-to-face with a person previously known to the child, who subsequently continues the sexual abuse.
In some cases, there may be two more phases:
- Search: In a first phase, thanks to all the information that minors put on unsupervised social networks, in chat rooms, social networks and forums, the harasser searches for his victims taking into account factors such as vulnerability, emotional need, low self-esteem, loneliness and little attention from parents.
- Isolation: An intermediate phase between hooking and seduction, the aggressor takes advantage of the trust he has gained with the child and knowledge, to try to isolate them from friends and family, in order to better control the child, become the closest person and prevent them from contacting someone to tell what is happening to them.
The changes or symptoms that the victim suffers can be divided into four different groups:
Changes in habits in relation to different areas:
- in the use of devices or Internet
- in class attendance, for example poorly excused absence
- abandonment or absence in activities
- ups and downs in study times and in schoolwork performance
- variations in leisure activities
- modification in eating habits
- decreased concentration and maintenance capacity
- special concealment when communicating over the Internet or mobile phone
Changes in mood:
- change of humor
- moments of sadness, apathy or indifference
- unusual attitudes of relaxation and tension, even aggressive reaction
- momentary explosions of aggressiveness
Changes in your relationships:
- strange changes in the group of pairsand/or sudden poverty, absence of friends and social relationships
- lack of defense or exaggerated reaction to alleged jokes or public observations. They may be apparently harmless comments but for the victim it has another meaning.
- fear or opposition when leaving home
- excessive reservations in communication
- changes in their groups of friends, sometimes radical changes
- variations in the relationship with adults, in terms of their frequency and their dependence
- variability of the groups and idols or models or models to follow and imitate
- physical and psychosomatic changes and symptoms, such as:
- modifications in your body language in the presence of certain people, avoiding contact or closing in on themelves.
- in the occupation of school spaces, fear of recess, and occupation of visible places
- manifestations of disease or frequent ailments
- frequent physical injuries without reasonable explanation,loss or deterioration of garments
- frequent dizziness with uncommon symptoms
- headaches or stomach aches that cause loss of activities or school attendance.
The recommendations to prevent grooming are:
In the family nucleus it is important to promote fluid intra-family communication, thus facilitating the possibility of talking to the children about the Internet, social networks and the potential dangers related to them, making it essential to warn them about the data that they should not provide through from the internet or social networks.
It is also advisable to educate the minor in the safe use of the Internet, tools, services and social networks, with the previous advice, not to provide data, not to accept strangers. The idea is to train them by offering them the necessary knowledge and tools so that they are increasingly autonomous in the use of networks. The supervision and control measures must be adapted to the age of the boy, girl or young person that you want to supervise.
The educational centers can elaborate concrete actions against grooming, counting among the teaching staff with experts who channel and facilitate the information and the technical operation of mechanisms and devices.
They can also adopt methodologies that facilitate the insertion and approach from the curriculum of grooming problems and measures aimed at prevention.
In the case of the minors, they must avoid providing compromising images and information to anyone, or make them accessible to third parties, they must reject sexual or pornographic messages and, in any case, ask for help in new or delicate situations, especially if they involve insecurity or emotional distress.