Unwanted contact and grooming

Socialising online can be a great way for children to build friendships, but it can also put them at risk.

How to deal with unwanted contact

Unwanted contact is any type of online communication that your child finds unpleasant or confronting, or that leads them into a situation where they might do something they regret. This can happen even if they initially welcomed the contact. It can come from strangers, online ‘friends’ your child has not met face-to-face, or from someone they actually know.

  • Make their accounts private — suggest that your child makes their social media accounts private or revises their privacy settings regularly.
  • Delete contacts they don’t talk to — ask them to go through all the people who follow them or are friends with them on social media and check that they actually know them.
  • Report and block — if they receive any unwanted contact from someone they know or a stranger, encourage them to report and block this person.
  • Delete requests from strangers — encourage your child to delete friend or follow requests from people they don’t know.

How does online grooming work?

Grooming involves building a relationship with a child in order to sexually abuse them. This abuse can happen in a physical meeting, but it increasingly occurs online when young people are tricked or persuaded into sexual activity on webcams or into sending sexual images.

How can I protect my child?

  • Stay involved in your child’s digital world — keep up to-date with the sites, apps and online chat services they are using, and explore them together.
  • Build an open trusting relationship — keep communication open and calm so they know they can come to you when someone is asking them to do something that does not feel right.
  • Help your child to protect their privacy — encourage your child to use their privacy settings on social media sites to restrict their online information to known friends only.
  • Teach your child to be alert to signs of inappropriate  contact — help your child recognise signs that an online ‘friend’ may be trying to develop an inappropriate relationship, such as asking lots of questions about personal information soon after meeting online, asking which room their computer is in, asking them for favours and doing things in return (abusers often use promises and gifts to gain trust).
  • Establish safety guidelines for meeting online ‘friends’ face-to-face — explain that it is safest to keep online ‘friends’ online, but that if they do want to meet someone face-to-face they should let you know first. Let them know they should be accompanied by you or another trusted adult.
  • What to do if something goes wrong — talk to them without being judgemental or angry and make them feel like they can come to you with anything, without fear of being punished or criticised. Find out what happened and act to protect your child. Call the police immediately if their physical safety is as risk. Report abuse or online grooming to your local police or Crimestoppers. Get help and support for your child from a professional counselling service.

This material has been adapted with permission from the Australian Government eSafety Commissioner. Permission to adapt content does not constitute endorsement of material by the eSafety Commissioner.