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Predators often use pornography and child pornography to lower a child’s inhibitions and use their adult status to influence and control a child’s behaviour.
They also flatter and compliment the child excessively and manipulate a child’s trust by relating to emotions and insecurities and affirming the child’s feelings and choices.
Generally the ultimate goal of an internet predator is to encourage children to participate in sexualised activities.
These tactics lead children to believe that no one else can understand them or their situation like the groomer.
After the child’s trust develops, the groomer may use sexually explicit conversations to test boundaries and exploit a child’s natural curiosity about sex.
The predator will usually pose as another child of the same age and try to establish a rapport.
Over time the predator will try to build up trust with their victim using gifts, compliments and simply by ‘being there’ to listen to their problems.
Often referred to as “online grooming”, this is a criminal offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre acknowledged in 2008 that social networking websites – which integrate personal profiles, email, instant messaging, games and photo sharing – enable information-gathering on a child and grooming to take place in one online environment.
Over time, online conversations will become more sexualised and the child will be encouraged to share intimate details and photographs of themselves.
Often predators will then try and arrange a meeting ‘in real life’ to escalate the abuse.
As the predator (usually an adult) attempts to establish a relationship to gain a child’s trust, he or she) may initially lie about his age or may never reveal his real age to the child, even after forming an established online relationship.
Often, the groomer will know popular music artists, clothing trends, sports team information, or another activity or hobby the child may be interested in, and will try to relate to the child.
With digital cameras, camera phones and webcams becoming increasingly popular, young people could be at heightened risk if they post sexually-provocative images online or share them via a mobile, for example.