Police campaign highlights the speed of online grooming

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In July 2016, a 15-year-old girl received a seemingly innocent Facebook message from a 28-year-old man she didn’t know. That simple “Hey, how are you?” led to her spending the night at the man’s house only 13 days later. She was held against her will and after trying to escape, was killed.

Now Leicester Police has released a harrowing reconstruction video of the young girl’s last two weeks. It will be shown in schools to highlight the speed at which grooming takes place and to help young people understand the importance of staying safe online.

The campaign is a major step towards tackling grooming at an educational level.

Spotting the signs of grooming fast

This story is testament to just how quickly grooming can escalate from one innocent chat. Parents always say they would know if their child or teenager had met a paedophile online. They’d know the signs - they’d spot the rush of messages, they’d pick out the lie about staying over at a friend’s house, they’d know something had changed in their child’s life. Sadly, this is not always the case.

As grooming becomes more prolific and children’s readiness to share their information online grows, language and terms in communication can become harder to detect. We work closely with online platforms to protect children before grooming even starts. Our linguistic and behavioural technology helps to identify online predators as quickly as possible. Everyone has a part to play to help protect underage audiences from grooming and other issues such as bullying and offensive content. Along with promoting responsible use of social media to vulnerable audiences and educating them on the risks, social platforms and brands should be closely monitoring and moderating their content too.