A warning from police – internet groomers could well be preying on your children.
Hiding behind fake profiles on social media sites, predators the world over scour the internet looking for vulnerable youngsters.
They befriend, pretend to care, ask to exchange photographs and in extreme cases, meet up and abuse.
And here in Cayman police believe in many cases, the predator could well be someone you or your children know well.
“There are grooming issues everywhere in the world, to what extent is the difficult question,” said Inspector Kevin Ashworth of the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service.
“Online grooming occurs at different levels or stages and can be perceived as purely innocent advances at first then escalating into more sinister motives.
“As with any online crime analysis and certainly, online grooming as an emerging and increasing trend, this is very difficult to quantify without scaremongering.”
In the past, it was easier for parents to monitor their children’s online activity, but with improved technology on cell phones, combined with easier internet access island-wide, it makes checking who your kids are speaking to, very difficult.
But according to Insp. Ashworth parents need to be as intrusive as possible.
“Be intrusive but be reasonable and, if possible, by consent,” he added.
“There are some things that a child may not want you to see, imagine this is their daily diary containing thoughts and emotions.
“This is perfectly normal for a child to protect their ‘growing pains’ however immature we as parents think this is.
“As advancements in technology and smartphone apps increase, often beyond the comprehension of parents, then opportunities will always exist to be clandestine with some online activity and this deliberate secrecy, unfortunately, is what predators rely on.”
But one startling fact that is often those carrying out cyber bullying are known to the victim.
Insp. Ashworth added: “Analysis of recent incidents and reported crimes would indicate the majority of inappropriate online activity is locally based, in the vast majority of cases with persons known to the victim.
“This prompts the deduction that ‘stranger danger’ is not as prevalent as we think as the activity noted can be traced to a failed relationship, a revenge ploy or a bullying tactic.”
Earlier this week, police revealed details of allegations made that indecent images of a girl, under the age of 18, had been circulating on social media sites.
They said it appears the individual took the photographs herself but never intended them to be made public.
Police warned of the dangers of taking such pictures that may fall into the wrong hands.
In some cases this could lead to bribery, predators demanding sexual favours and in extreme cases, suicide.
“The risks associated with uploading images are well documented,” Insp. Ashworth said.
“Any such image can be used to bully, humiliate and generally psychologically manipulate an individual.
“This can also lead to unwarranted ransom demands, requests for sexual favours, on the understanding that if not complied with then the images get published and other demeaning tasks which, in turn, may lead to depression, anxiety and in the more tragic cases the taking of one’s own life.”
- If you or anyone you know is suffering from online bullying or grooming issues, contact the police on 949-0290.
The signs of grooming aren’t always obvious and groomers will often go to great lengths not to be identified.
If a child is being groomed they may:
- be very secretive, including about what they are doing online
- have older boyfriends or girlfriends
- go to unusual places to meet friends
- have new things such as clothes or mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
- have access to drugs and alcohol
- isolated activity – often in bedroom with internet access
- sexual development – use of inappropriate words, viewing of pornographic images
- falling grades at school, cruelty to animals, bullying
- denial of existence or defence of online predators