Child grooming (a.k.a. enticement of children or solicitation of children for sexual purposes) "can be described as a practice by means of which an adult 'befriends' a child (often online, but offline grooming also exists and should not be neglected) with the intention of sexually abusing her/him".
Cyberstalking involves the use of information and communications technology (ICT) to perpetrate more than one incident intended to repeatedly harass, annoy, attack, threaten, frighten, and/or verbally abuse individuals.
Perpetrators can engage in cyberstalking directly by emailing, instant messaging, calling, texting, or utilizing other forms of electronic communications to communicate obscene, vulgar, and/or defamatory comments and/or threats to the victim and/or the victim's family, partner, and friends, and use technologies to monitor, survey and follow the victim's movements.
Perpetrators can also engage in cyberstalking indirectly by causing damage to the victim's digital device (by, for example, infecting the victim's computer with malware and using this malware to surreptitiously monitor the victim and/or steal information about the victim) or by posting false, malicious, and offensive information about the victim online or setting up a fake account in the victim's name to post material online (social media, chat rooms, discussion forums, websites, etc.).
There are several signs to be aware of (although a lot of them are quite common among teens). Generally, parents should look out for increased instances of:
- Being secretive about who they’ve been talking to online and what sites they visit.
- A move from expressing moderate views to following more extreme views.
- A sudden conviction that their religion, culture, or beliefs are under threat and treated unjustly.
- A conviction that the only solution to this threat is violence or war.
- Lack of feeling of belonging or a desperate need to find acceptance within a group.
- Displaying intolerant views to people of other races, religions, or political beliefs.
- Your child may actively search for content that is considered radical, or they could be persuaded to do so by others. Social media sites, like Facebook, Ask FM, and Twitter, can be used by extremists looking to identify, target, and contact young people. It’s easy to pretend to be someone else on the internet, so children can sometimes end up having conversations with people whose real identities they may not know, and who may encourage them to embrace extreme views and beliefs.
- Often children will be asked to continue discussions, not via mainstream social media, but via platforms, such as Omegle. Moving the conversation to less mainstream platforms can give users a greater degree of anonymity and can be less easy to monitor.
- People who encourage young people to do this are not always strangers. In many situations, they may already have met them, through their family or social activities, and then use the internet to build rapport with them. Sometimes children don’t realize that their beliefs have been shaped by others, and think that the person is their friend, mentor, boyfriend, or girlfriend and has their best interests at heart.
Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) helps parents protect their children’s privacy by giving them specific rights. COPPA requires websites to get parental consent before collecting or sharing information from children under 13. The law covers sites designed for kids under 13 and general audience sites that know certain users are under 13. COPPA protects information that websites collect upfront and information that kids give out or post later.