Knowledge and Resource Hub
17 October 2018

The virtual door to online child sexual grooming is wide open

This article discusses online child sexual grooming. The nature of sexual offending has changed, with most of these interactions now occurring online and involving younger victims. There are now calls for social media sites to do more “grooming prevention”, including considering the use of “anti-grooming alerts” for potential victims. However, the authors note there are some key issues to consider before doing this. These issues include the capacity of social media companies to accurately identify potential groomers.  Also the authors note that some believe social media warnings may push some offenders who usually only interact with children online into interacting with children offline which may increase the risk of contact offending. So offenders will then restrict their online sexual behaviour and instead focus on facilitating opportunities for contact abuse. Furthermore grooming alerts may inadvertently lead to a lessening of parental/carer supervision of children's social media accounts. The authors concluded that more needs to be done to identify grooming behaviours, and particularly before sexual abuse occurs, and more effective ways to respond to online sexual grooming need to be identified.