So here are some of the warning signs of your friend being groomed online, especially if they tell you that they have a boyfriend/girlfriend that they met online and don't know much about.
- Has your friend suddenly become very secretive? - Have they stopped telling you their secrets? Have they stopped sharing everything with you? Are they getting text messages that they won't show you? People who abuse will try everything to stop their victims from telling their friends & family about the ''relationship''.
- Have they become distant with you and other freinds? - As a teenager, you all become secretive, its all part of growing up and there are going to be things that you want to be more secretive about. As teenagers struggle through the teenage years they become distant anyway as new opportunities open up for them BUT This is also a sign of someone controlling and manipulating them.
- Have they mentioned an older person? - A lot of paedophiles on the internet will pose as a teenager to get close to a victim, but equally as dangerous, there are paedophiles that will admit to being an adult (but younger than their real age) and they will tell the victim how grown up they are to have an adult boyfriend and they will convince a victim that they are in love with them in order to have sex. The paedophile will convince the victim that they are grown up if they have sex and to keep the relationship secret because nobody else will understand.
- Is there an unexplained sadness or depression in your friend? - They may be scared of whats going on online and they could feel trapped, they may feel the need to speak to you but are too scared and feel that they may be in a lot of trouble.
- Do they seem to be addicted to using their phone or social media account? - We all have trouble putting our phones down, in fact our phones seem to be an extension of our bodies, but is your friend on their phone all the time? does their attitude change when they have checked their phone? do they look worried (a paedophile/predator will get angry if the victim isn't online all the time, they want control). Are they checking their social media all the time? Is there an older person constantly commenting, liking pictures etc? Perhaps something doesn't seem right.
- Are your friend and her mum having problems in their relationship? - A paedophile will come between a victim and her mum, they will tell the victim that nobody understands her like they do. The paedophile will put ideas and thoughts into a victims head, they will tell the victim that the mother doesn't understand and an already rift can grow or a once close relationship can be left in tatters.
- Has your friends sexual behaviour changed? - Are they sending naked or sexy photo's to someone? Have they suddenly become sexual in public and started to dress more provocative?
- Does the new boyfriend/ Friend seem to be too good to be true? - Is everything happening really fast? does everything seem wrong about the relationship and does the boyfriend seem to be the most perfect boyfriend EVER?
These are just a few of the signs that could indicate that your friend is being groomed online.
So how can you help?
- Listen to them, but don't panic them, Judge them and just simply reassure them that you will help them out of the situation
- Advise them to talk to their parents or another trusted adult. Sometimes its easier to talk to a teacher at school or work colleague.
- If you can't convince them to talk to an adult, but your convinced that there is something wrong - then you tell a trusted adult.
- Explain the danger that they are in with the 'relationship', it is dangerous to meet people from the internet that they don't know, even if they think they do know them.
- Talk to and try and get your friend to talk to someone that can be trusted and is experienced in helping with this kind of situation. They can email or call someone from Childline 0800 1111. Contact CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) or if there is immediate danger call 999.
Please take time to sign the petition to get this paedophile jailed for the crimes he committed and was allowed to walk the street. You can sign HERE