July 5, 2024

Is Your Child Being Groomed Online?: Recognizing the Signs

Most children do not know they are being groomed online, even if they know the signs to look out for. As humans we experience what’s called a ‘normalcy bias‘, a cognitive bias that leads people to disbelieve or minimize threat warnings. In other words, the “that can’t happen to me” or the “bad things happen to other people” mindset. For example, when a person walks up to a bear in national park to take a quick selfie, thinking that they won’t get attacked. Online spaces offer even more to that bias because many believe that what happens on the internet isn’t real, that it’s a fantasy. For children and teenagers, this opens up the opportunity to push boundaries and, possibly, find themselves in trouble.

This is fine Meme

*This popular comic strip is a visual representation of normalcy bias. Art credit: K.C. Green


Signs Your Child May Be Experiencing Online Grooming

As children get older, it’s harder to recognize the signs of online grooming as they closely resemble the behaviors of puberty. However, if your child exhibits many of these signs, it’s best to initiate an in-depth conversation about their online lives.


Behavioral Signs to Be Aware Of

  • Being secretive about what they do online or reluctant to talk about their internet use.
  • Spending more time online, especially when they’re alone in their room.
  • Dressing in a way that seems more mature or sexualized.
  • Experiencing mood swings or becoming easily upset.
  • Having new items, especially expensive ones, that you didn’t buy and they can’t explain.
  • Using language that seems too mature for their age.
  • Acting suspiciously when you enter the room, like quickly turning off the screen or changing what’s on their laptop or phone.

Social Signs to Be Aware Of

  • Mentioning an online boyfriend or girlfriend and wanting to visit them alone. This also includes wanting to visit ‘groups’ of friends from online.
  • Spending a lot of time away from home without explaining where they’ve been or running away.
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.
  • Destroying important or valued belongings.


In conclusion, it is not just online activities that need to be monitored but also the child’s behavior. Children are more susceptible to fall into the trap of thinking that online dangers won’t happen to them. If you notice your child exhibiting any of the above signs have a heart-to-heart conversation. Talking openly with your child about their online life and making sure they know they can come to you with any concerns is key. By actively staying involved and informed, you can help protect your child from the risks associated with online grooming. Remember, it’s all about creating a safe and open environment where your child feels comfortable sharing their digital experiences with you.


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Josh Gillispie