Many parents are aware of the growing danger of online grooming especially through social media. Concerned about child safety, they might know that sexual predators try to manipulate minors into having a sexual relationship. While this is scary to think about it as a parent, awareness is of crucial importance to protecting your children. In a recent blog, we explored the warning signs of online grooming to help inform parents of the dangers and help them to devise preventative strategies. This article will explore the key question affected parents ask: what to do if my child is being groomed online? Online grooming investigations are one of Cybertrace’s specialities, and our team are passionate about hunting down child predators.
What is online grooming?
Online grooming – or online child sexual exploitation – refers to “someone building a relationship with a child in order to sexually abuse them”. This definition by the eSafety Commissioner not only includes physical abuse but virtual harm, too. Devastatingly, online predators often trick or pressure young people into sending sexual images or engaging in sexual activity on webcams. Furthermore, they might also groom children online in order to sexually abuse them in person later on. Online grooming investigations, including social media, are therefore vital to uncovering sexual predators and protecting innocent children.
A growing problem
According to the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation, online grooming is a rapidly growing problem. From 2019 to 2021, Australian reports of online child sexual exploitation increased by almost 250% to more than 33,000 cases, no doubt fuelled by increased online access for young people during the pandemic. At the same time, the Australian Federal Police only charged 237 people with about 2,000 alleged child abuse-related offences. Clearly, there is a huge gap between the amount of online child sexual exploitation and law enforcement’s capacity to investigate. Online grooming investigations by specialised private investigators such as Cybertrace play a vital role in closing this gap. The safety of our children demands it.
How do I know if someone is grooming my child?
There are many great resources that educate about behavioural “tells”/red flags as well as strategies to protect your children. Apart from our previous blog, other materials provide further reading on this topic. They include Kids Helpline, Kids Health, Raising Children, Children’s Health Queensland Hospital and Health Service, Consumer Notice, and PrivacyHub. However, despite your best efforts, online predators might still find a way to groom your child. What to do if my child is being groomed online? Don’t blame yourself – hire a specialist to undertake an online grooming investigation especially if it was initiated via social media.
What to do if my child is being groomed online?
If you suspect someone is grooming your child online, there are three important steps. Firstly, talk to your child to offer support and understanding. Even though they have done nothing wrong, the online predator will manipulate them into feeling fear, shame and regret. Reassure them that it is not their fault, that they are not in trouble and that you are on their side. Secondly, don’t let the perpetrator know that you are onto them. Instead, carefully collect all evidence of online grooming such as social media chat messages, emails or screenshots of conversations. Be careful not to save any actual child abuse images or videos, though (even as evidence!) since that may constitute a crime. Finally, contact Cybertrace quickly, so that our experienced investigators can take over covert communication with the perpetrator immediately. We are experts in online grooming investigations.
What does an online grooming investigation entail?
Of course, we recommend that you report the abuse to your local police station or the ACCCE’s online reporting platform. However, unless you already know the identity of the perpetrator, the police may not be able to help you with an individual case. This is due to the huge volume of reports they receive and their primary focus on disrupting child abuse networks. Much like cyber fraud investigations, finding an individual child abuse perpetrator is painstaking and resource-intensive work. Online grooming investigations to uncover a perpetrator’s fake online identity require experienced cyber analysts, psychological profilers, and sophisticated tracking technology. Fortunately, this is Cybertrace’s exact area of expertise!
How can Cybertrace help me?
Our staff are passionate about putting their time, effort and expertise into online grooming investigations that protect innocent children and expose online predators. In a recent case, Cybertrace investigators helped an Australian family whose teenage daughter had been tricked into sending sexually explicit videos. While she thought these were going to an adolescent acquaintance, the perpetrator was actually an adult man in India. Demanding more and more videos, he threatened to publicly release them if she did not comply. Using our investigative expertise and custom-designed tracking technology, Cybertrace was able to identify the perpetrator’s IP address through social engineering. The grateful family could therefore provide these vital details to local law enforcement who were then able to act.
With police forces struggling to keep up with a deluge of reports of online child sexual exploitation, reputable private investigators like Cybertrace are vital in helping victims and their families get justice. We can do the hard legwork of unmasking perpetrators so that you can present the police with a strong case and clear evidence. In our experience, law enforcement is much more likely to take up and prioritise cases that have a solid evidence base. What to do if my child is being groomed online? Let our passionate and professional staff conduct an online grooming investigation for you. Don’t suffer in silence – contact our team today for a confidential discussion of your case!