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What is an online groomer?

An online groomer is an adult who wants to have sexual contact with children or young people, and uses the internet for this. The groomer pretends to be a cool boy or a popular girl. He tries to get in contact with you and win your trust. He might pretend to be a fan of a certain singer that you like too, to be into the same sport, or to have the same hobby as you. None of it is really true. Maybe he's looked at your profile and used it to get the information.

How does an online groomer operate?

During the conversation, the groomer collects information from you that helps him to pretend to understand you completely. The chats are enjoyable, fun and make you feel good, because it's nice to be able to talk to someone. At a certain point, the conversation turns to sex and he asks you to undress in front of the webcam. He records the images, and uses them to blackmail you later on. He threatens to share the videos with other people and you don't want that. He might also try to meet up with you and have sex.

Against the law and punishable

Online grooming is against the law. It's illegal for adults to approach children or young people under 16 through chat sites, with the intention of getting them to agree to have sex, including webcam sex.

How do you avoid online grooming?

  • Don't become Facebook friends with people you don't know.
  • Make sure that only your Facebook friends can see your profile and your photos. You can customise this in your privacy settings.
  • Never give your address or telephone number to someone on the internet who you don't know in real life.
  • Play it safe with webcam sex: don't do it if you don't know the other person in real life, or if you think it’s risky. If you do it anyway, make sure your face is not in the picture and that you can't tell from the images that it's you. If the other person shares the images, people won't know it's you and you can't be blackmailed by them.
  • If you arrange to meet up with someone you met online, take a friend with you, and your mobile phone. Arrange to meet in a public place where there are lots of people. At a station or in a café for instance.