Do you always know who you’re talking to online? You may think you do, but people can be very clever at hiding who they are. That gamer you are playing with, or that person you met in a chatroom might have a profile that says they’re a teenager like you, when they are actually someone completely different. However convincing they might be, it’s really important to know the possible dangers of talking to someone you don’t know. This is when you might be at risk from online grooming.
So, what do we mean by ‘online grooming’? It’s when a person or ‘groomer’ builds a relationship with someone online, usually over a period of time. It can happen through photo-sharing apps, gaming, chatrooms, pretty much anywhere you can talk to people online. As you build a friendship with the ‘groomer’, they can use this to either trick or pressure you into doing something sexual, like sending naked pictures, having sexual conversations or doing something sexual live on webcam for them – otherwise known as ‘sexting.’ For more information about ‘sexting’ see our Sexting page.
It’s not always easy to see that online grooming is happening, as the signs aren’t always clear. The following may happen:
- you may get lots of messages
- be asked to keep conversations a secret
- messaging may get more sexual over time
- you may be blackmailed or threatened that a sexual image you have shared with this person will then be posted online.
If you think this may be happening to you, or to someone you know, and you’d like to speak to someone you can trust, call the Childline helpline on 0800 1111.
For more information and advice about online grooming visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk or take a look at a Childline video discussion here.