PhD student Helen Whittle offers insights into online grooming research in the Journal 'Aggression and Violent Behavior'

Posted on Monday 10th December 2012

 Forensic Psychology PhD student Helen Whittle has had her literature review accepted to be published in the Journal ‘Aggression and Violent Behavior’. The article, titled, “A review of online grooming: characteristics and concerns” explores the research surrounding how young people are targeted by offenders on the internet. The process of online grooming facilitates child abuse and is a threat to young people across the work. Definitions, prevalence and characteristics of online grooming are addressed in this article, in addition to consideration of child sexual abuse theories and internet behaviours. There are a variety of techniques used by internet groomers to manipulate young people (e.g. flattery, bribes, threats) and different ways that young people engage in risk taking behaviour on the internet (e.g. communicating with strangers online, sharing personal information). While models and typologies can aid professionals in understanding the crime, it is important to acknowledge that internet offenders, victims and the dynamic between the two are often unique and varied. This is fundamental to the development of effective preventative education for online grooming and abuse. The review concludes that research concerning the online grooming of young people is limited and calls for further study in this field.

Link to the article online: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2012.09.003

Helen has also had her second literature review accepted to be published in the Journal 'Aggression and Violent Behavior'. The article, titled, "Vulnerabilities of Young People to Online Grooming" explores risk factors that may make a young person vulnerable to being groomed online. Even though research in this area is extremely limited, adolescents appear to be the age group most vulnerable to online grooming. Other vulnerabilities appear to be consistent with those associated with offline sexual abuse. The review suggests that behaviours specific to online grooming include: engaging in risk taking behaviour online, high levels of internet access, and lack of parental involvement in the young person's internet use. Vulnerabilities to carry out these types of behaviour and be more exposed to the risk of online grooming, are set within the context of the Ecological Model of child protection, consisting of: individual, family, community, and cultural risk factors. Patterns of vulnerability regarding living environment, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and personality are tentative, but are often interconnected. The more risk taking behaviours the young person carries out, plus greater levels of vulnerability factors, the less resilient they are likely to be towards protecting themselves against online grooming. A protective factor appears to be parental involvement in their child's use of the internet. Therefore, this, in combination with internet safety education at school, is encouraged.

Link to the article online http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.avb.2012.11.008