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Child Sexual Abuse: Online Grooming

Online grooming is a process used by offenders to sexualize an online encounter with a child. Offenders will use a multitude of techniques to manipulate perceptions of children so they comply with their sexual requests or demands. Through operating Cybertip.ca, we have seen several common tactics that include:

  • Falsely identifying themselves online as a peer (e.g., child from another school, connected through sport, friend of a friend, or known to the child in some way)
  • Flattery/compliments/support
  • Promise of gifts, money, tablets, drugs, alcohol
  • Pitting the parents against the child (e.g., your parents are too strict, your parents don’t understand you)
  • Exchange of sexual pictures to make victim more comfortable in sending sexual pictures/videos in return
  • Take pictures with or without the child’s knowledge while live‑streaming. This is often followed by the use of extortion to control the child and/or threatening to share the material unless the child produces additional sexual images/videos
  • Threats, intimidation, and harassment

How Big is This Problem?

In the past year, Cybertip.ca analysts have classified more than 645 reports as online luring, an attempt made by offenders to sexually exploit/harm children.Go to footnote 1 Of those reports:

  • 25% involved victims 13 years old or under, with the youngest being 7 years old
  • 48% involved victims 14–17 years old
  • 22% of incidents occurred on Snapchat®
  • 23% of incidents occurred on Instagram®, Facebook® or Facebook Messenger®
  • 12% of incidents occurred on Discord™
  1. 1 As of September 1, 2021.

Does Grooming Children Just Happen Online?

Absolutely not. Grooming is also a tactic used by individuals who have existing relationships with children and their family. The individual builds trust and comfort with a child and the safe adults around them to eventually sexually abuse the child. This manipulative process establishes a legitimate purpose for their contact with the child and increases the likelihood that their involvement with the child is welcomed and encouraged. It also leaves children feeling responsible for what has happened and silences them, and creates blind spots in the adults around the child so it difficult for them to understand how this could happen.

Organizations and institutions that offer privileged access to children are not invulnerable to individuals misusing their position to sexually harm or abuse children. Some examples include:

Sport:

In the past couple of years, more than ever it’s being brought to light that sport presents as a high risk area for attracting individuals who are looking to gain access to and exploit children.

To learn more about sexual abuse in sport and what can be done to stop it, visit commit2kids.ca.

Schools:

According to a study conducted by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection (C3P) approximately 750 cases involving sexual offences against a minimum of 1,200 children occurred between 1997 and 2017 by about 714 employees working in Canadian K-12 schools.

To read the final results of the study, Child Sexual Abuse by K-12 School Personnel in Canada, click here.

What can YOU do?

Be informed, pay attention, and do something. Children depend on adults for their protection:

  1. Empower yourself with knowledge. Learn more about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, how it happens, and how to reduce risk to your child by visiting protectchildren.ca.
  2. Stay up to date on emerging trends and risks online. Visit protectkidsonline.ca, a one-stop website where parents of kids, tweens and teens can get cyber safety advice, and sign up for Cybertip.ca Alerts.
  3. If you see, read, hear anything sexual from an adult towards a child online or in real life, report your concerns.