Who are you really talking to?

Many people use Facebook, Twitter or other social media sites to keep in touch with friends and family online. Talking to people online that you know is something that we all do, however people that you don’t know can also use social media to become your “friend”. You may feel the pressure of having lots of “friends” online, however it’s easy for someone to pretend to be someone else on the internet and you could end up having conversations on social media, with people who aren’t who they say they are.

Being online makes it easy for people to lie and pretend to be someone else. Some people use social media to make contact with children and young people with the intention of “grooming” them. To groom someone is to prepare someone to do something sexual for the benefit of the person making contact. 

Groomers might try to gain your trust by using a fake profile picture and by pretending to have similar interests as you. They might pretend to be your age and have similar interests to you.

People who try to groom children and young people want you to believe their lies so that they can get information about you:

  • your age
  • where you live
  • who else might use the computer that you use or
  • who else has access to your mobile phone

Once they have lots of information about you and have got your trust and friendship, they often move conversations towards sexual experiences and interests, even asking you to send sexual photographs or videos of yourself.

Some might move towards wanting to meet up, others might try to blackmail you by threatening to share any images/pictures or videos you might have sent them already with your friends and family, if you don’t carry on doing what they ask you to do.

Online grooming can take place via chat rooms, instant messaging (IM), social networking sites and email and can involve you:

  • Being asked to chat about sex online
  • Being asked to do sexual things on webcam
  • Being asked to share naked or sexual pictures of yourself
  • Being asked to look at, or watch pictures or videos of others doing sexual things
  • Being exposed to online pornography
  • Or being asked to watch the person you are speaking with do sexual things, such as exposing themselves
  • Being asked to meet up face to face with the person you have been speaking to online.

Online grooming can happen to both boys and girls, of any age, whether you are gay or straight. No matter where you’re from or what your cultural background is.

Find out: How to spot the signs