Grooming: a new danger for teenagers on the internet
A few weeks ago, the movie "You can trust me" was televised ("Trust" in the English version).
This interesting film faithfully describes a case of Grooming . This relatively new phenomenon, Grooming, refers to the deception and sexual harassment suffered by minors in the network by adults. The film reflects as what a family has built for years is destroyed by a stranger in an instant. The online stranger gains the trust of a 14-year-old girl, Annie, posing as a 16-year-old teenager and taking advantage of the insecurities of the girl's age.
Grooming: a new danger for teenagers (notice Spoiler)
Warning, if someone wants to see the movie, do not continue reading because to treat the subject of Grooming I will use several elements of the plot of the film to facilitate the understanding of the phenomenon . The sexual abuse of minors is an issue that worries the whole society, a problem that, although it is quite frequent, tends to be covered with stereotypes and topics that contribute to make it more invisible. When we talk about sexual abuse of minors, mistakenly the collective imaginary reminds us that abuse involves the use of force and physical violence. And it is not always like that.
The film reminds us, with great success, that when we refer to sexual abuse against minors, there must not necessarily be a previous aggression, since the adult can use mechanisms of emotional manipulation, deception and blackmail . These mechanisms cover the intentionality of the adult, clearly sexual and illegitimate. With this type of maneuvers, the aggressor manages to gain the trust and affection of the minor: "He is interested in me", "He loves me". This can lead to the relationship to the physical plane, resulting in sexual assault.
Adults who manipulate and earn the trust of children
The unknown adult, called "Charlie" in the movie, has woven a web of manipulations for more than two months to gain the trust of the youngest , with the objective of preparing the ground and perpetrating the abuse. "He has been preparing her for this moment." With these words, the FBI agent replies to Annie's father (Clive Owen) when he asks the angry agent, "Did my daughter resist?" Asked for help? "A father who represents public opinion, given that he is totally convinced that the abuse must involve physical violence, and does not understand how his intelligent daughter of 14 years has been placed in this situation, deceived and manipulated by Charlie.
The same thing we see in the three families that lend themselves to a youtuber experiment Coby Persin , to demonstrate the risk that minors suffer to be victims of this type of sexual criminals. The fathers and mothers of the creatures fully trust that their daughters (12 to 14 years old) will not agree to open the door during the night or to board the vehicle of an unknown "teenager".
How can we avoid as parents our child being a victim of grooming?
Clearly, the key is to prevent cheating , explaining the risks that exist in the network and inform about the available security measures, insisting that they should not cite strangers, even though our young people believe that they are not strangers or strangers because they have chatted for a few days. One of the best indications is to be prudent, distrust the good words of strangers and apply common sense.
Common sense and critical thinking
But we will only make adolescents and pre-adolescents aware of this type of case by encouraging them to develop critical thinking , just as it happened to us when we stopped believing one hundred percent what we observed on the television. We must get the age, personality and intentions of unknown people who contact them through the internet questioned. We must warn our children that it is not right or acceptable for a stranger to ask them to be in hiding, and that this appointment can lead to terrible consequences.
We must also inform you that, if you finally decide to meet that person, they must always be accompanied by another person who can help them in case something strange happens . And a long list of recommendations that have already indicated police and educational institutions and that we should remember to be aware of our children's potential dangers if they are too gullible.
What makes children feel attached to their potential abuser?
But let's continue analyzing the movie.What makes Annie discover that Charlie has lied with age, forgive him and continue to be at risk? The answer is a combination of three factors: Confidence, insecurity and age difference . Therefore, we are talking about emotional and cognitive skills that surpass the adult with respect to the child.
There is an asymmetry between them and there is an abuse of power . The trust, which Charlie has earned by giving him all the attention by chat and telephone, and Annie's insecurity, very typical of the stage of puberty, are the elements that facilitate contact and "friendship" between them. Annie wants to fit in, like and makes her efforts at the institute. And Charlie ends up eclipsing all his attention by being interested in everything that affects the girl, giving a false image of himself with which she fantasizes and hiding that her interest in her is only sexual.
A key moment of the film is when both meet and she cries to find out that he had cheated him by telling her his age . At that moment, Charlie accuses her and blames her for the lie, accusing him that he had not told her that his age was real because he knew he would react immaturely. Therefore, the adult uses a perverse psychological manipulation that prevents Annie from recognizing her assertive rights, such as the right to get angry and leave, to say no, and so on. And if that were not enough, he again shifts the guilt to her, pretending they have "something special" and adopting paternalistic attitudes to get her to accede to his pretensions.
Another key: improving trust between parents and children
The peer social group (classmates and friends, for example) has an important role in developing the identity and self-esteem of minors, and it is difficult to influence this. But precisely because of this decisive influence we must be attentive and receptive and try to reinforce and positively influence our children, fostering communication with them.
Some generic recommendations are the following:
- Reinforce your assertiveness letting him decide on certain aspects of his daily life.
- Strengthen social relationships among peers . Go to parties for friends, come home to sleep, etc.
- Talk about sexuality with them . We must establish a serious and cordial communication with the children around this issue, not only regarding protection and contraceptives, which is the most basic, but also assertive rights (to decide, to change your opinion, to not allow someone to do something they do not want, etc.).
- If your child wants to share with you some topic about something that has happened to him or her friends, or in high school, stop what you are doing and take an interest in him (or her).
- It controls the use of the mobile phone, especially in family contexts. The film clearly shows how Annie spends the day in front of the computer and the telephone: this behavior should not be allowed as parents. Be interested in what you observe that makes you smile or bother, even if it's something you do not want to share, show yourself interested.
- If you see your son or daughter worried about his image, try not to trivialize, positively reinforce his physical appearance and be interested in his tastes.
Practical guides to improve our skills as parents
There are many guides in Psychology and Mind about advice for fathers and mothers. Consult them, and do not forget that even if it seems a remote risk, we all have a computer with an internet connection. I share with you right here below one that seems essential to me:"Teen rebels: 6 tips for parents in distress"