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How to Protect Your Child From Online Grooming

a groomer reading his phone in the dark

What is Grooming?

Grooming refers to the manipulative behavior used by individuals, often adults, to build trust and establish emotional connections with children online. The goal of grooming is to exploit children for sexual or other harmful purposes. Groomers will establish a false sense of friendship or care to gain the child’s trust and make him or her more susceptible to exploitation or coercion.

What to Look Out For

Recognizing the behavioral patterns used in grooming is crucial for parents, guardians, and caregivers to safeguard children from potential harm. Promoting open communication, educating children about healthy online relationships, and looking out for signs of grooming can help to prevent such predatory behaviors and protect young individuals online.

Building a False Sense of Trust

Groomers build trust over time. Predators often establish a friendly and supportive online presence to win the trust of potential victims, gradually blurring the line between friendship and manipulation.


Online predators employ the tactic of secrecy when grooming victims. They might encourage victims to keep their interactions a secret, isolating them from seeking help from friends, family, or authorities. This secrecy can deepen the emotional hold a predator has on a victim.


The manipulation of consent is a prevalent pattern in grooming. Predators might coerce victims into sharing personal information, images, or engaging in explicit conversations under the guise of trust and affection. This manipulation can lead to victims feeling trapped and coerced into further compromising situations.

Best Practices for Parents

Teach Online Distrust

Make it clear that strangers online, no matter how friendly they may seem, are not to be trusted. Even accounts that seeming to belong peers could be imposters. If your children have an online presence, they should only connect with their trusted, real-world friends.

Monitor Your Child’s Direct Messages

Any app with a direct messaging or texting component can be used for grooming. The easiest way to mitigate this threat is to routinely monitor your child’s messaging history.

Limit Usage of High-Risk Apps

Apps like Discord, which offer a venue for one-on-one anonymous audio communication, are a prime platform for grooming. Snapchat, an app that features disappearing text and photo messages, can also be used by bad actors. Seriously limit or outright prohibit your child’s usage of these risky apps.

Establish Open Communication

Groomers seek to undermine the trust between parents and their children. One of your greatest tools as a parent is open communication with your child about online interactions.Break off any potential abusive relationships before serious exploitation can occur.

For More on Grooming

Go to the Grooming Archive →

Sources and Additional Reading