Child protection: What is child grooming and who is targeted?

South African Police Service

Child protection: What is child grooming and who is targeted?
Child protection: What is child grooming and who is targeted? Photo: SAPS

While child grooming is an unfamiliar term to many South Africans, all parents, community leaders and government officials should be aware of this danger to innocent children. Child grooming is defined as befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child (and sometimes their family), to lower the child’s defenses for the purpose of sexual abuse.

Children from as young as three years have been targets of child grooming, although most victims are between the ages of 11 and 17. The majority of cases involving teenagers occur over the Internet, especially through mobile phones, and children with attention-seeking behavior are especially at risk.

How does it happen?

  • Child groomers may try to gain a parent or guardian’s trust to gain easy access to a child.
  • A trusting relationship with the family, enables a child groomer to spend time with a child by babysitting or inviting them for sleepovers.
  • There have been several global instances of people in positions of power bribing parents with money or employment in exchange for time alone with a child.
  • Child groomers often approach their victims over the Internet, sometimes posing as children themselves, before asking to meet in person.

How can parents prevent or act against child grooming?

  • The misuse of available technologies gives perpetrators new avenues to groom and exploit children.
  • Parents are called to implement strict measures which will ensure that their children do not fall prey to sexual predators lurking on the net.
  • It is recommended that parents supervise their children’s access to the internet and social media.
  • It is pertinent for parents to also note that WhatsApp and Facebook have age restrictions of 13 years within their respective terms of services that prohibit children under 13 years from using WhatsApp and Facebook.
  • Help your children to understand who they should and should not be communicating with on social media.
  • Encourage them to only interact with people they already know.
  • Keep an eye out for changes in your child, such as being overly secretive about online activities, having an older boyfriend or girlfriend, meeting people at unusual places, suddenly having new possessions or having access to alcohol or drugs.
  • Educate your child on the dangers of grooming.

Police stance on child grooming:

Child grooming is viewed as a serious sexual offence under the Criminal Law: Sexual Offences and Related Matters Amendment, 2007 (Act no 32 of 2007). Immediately act on any allegations of sexual abuse against children.
Where can you find help?

Victims or parents may report any suspected child grooming to:

Your nearest police station
Crime Stop at 08600 10111 or
Child Line at 0800 055 555.

Do not protect abusers, play your part to reject and report abusers.
Do not look away because is not your daughter, sister, mother, relative, neighbor or friend.
Act now because Gender Based Violence affect everyone in the community

South Africa Today – South Africa News

SOURCESouth African Police Service