K-K R Choo, ‘Responding to Online Child Sexual Grooming: An Industry Perspective’, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice no. 379, Australian Institute of Criminology, July 2009, describes the process of online grooming as follows (citations omitted):

K-K R Choo, ‘Responding to Online Child Sexual Grooming: An Industry Perspective’, Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice no. 379, Australian Institute of Criminology, July 2009, describes the process of online grooming as follows (citations omitted):

Child grooming, a premeditated behaviour intended to secure the trust and cooperation of children prior to engaging in sexual conduct, is a process that commences with sexual predators choosing a location or target area likely to be attractive to children. A process of grooming then commences during which offenders take a particular interest in their child victim to make them feel special with the intention of gaining their trust. As trust is developed between the child victim and the offender, offenders then seek to desensitise child victims to sexual conduct by introducing a sexual element into the relationship.

All this is able to be achieved with ease in the online environment. Large numbers of children now use the internet. In one US study, 55 percent of surveyed young people aged between 12 and 17 years were found to have used online social-networking sites. Sexual offenders are also using the internet to locate children for criminal purposes, including the creation of pornography, sex tourism, making contact with child prostitutes and establishing contacts for subsequent sexual assault.

Online sexual solicitations by adults targeting children are of great concern. The anonymous nature of the internet allows offenders to masquerade as children in cyberspace to gain the confidence and trust of their victims over a period of time before introducing a sexual element into the online conversation and eventually arranging a physical meeting. The lack of visual cues in cyberspace that may assist child victims in making judgments about the suitability, trustworthiness and sincerity of others with whom they communicate also facilitates the grooming process for offenders.

In what ways can children be educated so as to prevent the dangers of becoming victims to online predators? What is the online version of the ‘stranger danger’?

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