Englisch: Together against cyber-grooming!
Social media, chat forums, and online games offer children and young people many new possibilities and lots of fun.
Gaming and chatting with friends. This also quickly leads to contact with strangers. The people on a network are often not who they say they are. In a worst case, they even have criminal intentions.
Targeting minors on the Internet with the aim of initiating contact for sex is called cyber-grooming. It often starts with compliments, such as doing well in online gaming or for photos on Instagram. Perpetrators pretend to be people of the same age, asking about the person’s city, school, or sports club to create the illusion of proximity and similarity.
To keep the chats secret, the attempt is made to switch to a private chat as quickly as possible. Gradually, a connection and a sense of trust are established. Sexually suggestive remarks follow, along with requests for photos or webcam calls, until potentially a meeting in person is proposed. The perpetrators apply psychological pressure, threatening or blackmailing the child.
The facts are overwhelming.
A recent study by the state institute “Landesanstalt für Medien NRW” reveals that almost one in four children between the ages of 8 and 17 has been affected. It happens via platforms like TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, or Minecraft, as well as other online games.
It is important to know: Cyber-grooming is a form of sexualized violence and is a criminal offense in Germany. Prison sentences of three months to five years can be issued.
How can I recognize that a child is affected? And what can I do?
Many children feel shame or fear if they experience sexual harassment on the Internet and, therefore, choose not to speak with their parents or other adults. The perpetrators’ threats are powerful.
- Therefore, pay attention to whether a child suddenly appears depressed, anxious, or stressed. Create an atmosphere rooted in trust. Give children the feeling to be able to contact you at any time. When children feel good and they trust you, the probability is higher that they will confide in you.
- Prevention is the best form of protection. Talk to children, including in a group or class context, about staying safe on the Internet, recognizing warning signals, and setting boundaries. Talk about key rules, such as: no personal data or photos to strangers, or no private chats with unknown individuals.
- Make it clear that children always have a right to protection. In acute cases, seek out a dialogue with the child and, if necessary, with the parents. It is important to make it clear to the child that they are not to blame. Offer help, secure any evidence, and report the case to the police. Do not look the other way.
- Your attention can help to effectively protect children from digital violence. Benefit from training and education programs and establish protection concepts in your facilities.