The social media giants say they are committed to combating online grooming but what can parents do to cut the risk to their child? Here is advice from the NSPCC.
- What is grooming?
Grooming is when someone builds up a relationship - often with a child or vulnerable adult - in order to manipulate, abuse, or exploit them.
Anyone could be a groomer but those who do so online may take care to conceal their identity by sending fake photographs, often surreptitiously appearing as a child.
- How to spot if your child is being groomed
Grooming can be very difficult for parents to spot and the signs can be hidden more easily, depending on the temperament of your child and his or her age.
If an older child is being groomed, their attempts to hide their communications could easily be viewed as typical teenage behaviour.
Despite this, the NSPCC says there are several things you can look out for in your child's behaviour:
They spend much more or much less time online than usual
They appear upset, distant or angry after being online
They act secretive about who they're communicating with online
They have an older boyfriend or girlfriend online
They have an understanding of sex that isn't appropriate for their age
They have a high number of new phone numbers, texts or email addresses on their device
They have money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can't or won't explain
- How to prevent your child being groomed
Without completely taking your child offline it will be very difficult to guarantee you've prevented your child being groomed, but the NSPCC says there are steps to take which can reduce the risk.
The most important step is to speak to your child about healthy relationships and the need to stay safe online.
Encourage your child to be honest and transparent with what they're doing online.
One way to try make sure they're safe is to keep games consoles and computers in the living room or family spaces and remember to use parental controls.
- What to do if your child reveals abuse
If your child talks to you about grooming, the NSPCC says there are several things to remember.
Always listen carefully to what they're saying
Make sure they know they've done the right thing by telling you
Don't confront the alleged abuser
Tell the child it isn't their fault
Explain what you're going to do next
Report the alleged abuse as soon as possible