Preteen models

Child grooming

Child grooming, in the context of this article, refers to actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, in order to lower the child's inhibitions in preparation for sexual abuse.


The deliberate actions taken by an adult to form a trusting relationship with a child, with the intent of later having sexual contact, is known as child grooming. The act of grooming a child sexually may include activities that are legal in and of themselves, but later lead to sexual contact. Typically, this is done to gain the child's trust as well as the trust of those responsible for the child's well-being. Furthermore, research has shown children are less likely to report a crime if it involves someone that he or she knows, trusts, and cares about. Additionally, a trusting relationship with the family means the child's parents will be less likely to believe any potential accusations.

Examples of activities sometimes used as part of child grooming

  • Taking an undue interest in someone's child (having a "special" friend)
  • Giving gifts or money to the child for no apparent reason
  • Showing pornography to the child (illegal in many jurisdictions)
  • Talking about sexual topics that are not age-appropriate
  • Invading the child's privacy (e.g. walking in on him/her in the bathroom)
  • Hugging, kissing, or other physical contact even when the child does not want this attention
  • Allowing the child to get away with inappropriate behavior
  • Talking to the child about problems that would normally be discussed with adults (e.g. marital problems)

Child grooming over the Internet

Sexual grooming of children also occurs on the Internet. Some abusers will pose as children online and make arrangements to meet with them in person.

In 2003, MSN implemented restrictions in their chat rooms purportedly intended to help protect children from adults seeking sexual conversations with them. In 2005, Yahoo! chat rooms were investigated by the New York State attorney general's office for allowing users to create rooms whose names suggested that they were being used for this purpose. That October, Yahoo! agreed to "implement policies and procedures designed to ensure" that such rooms would not be allowed.

An organization called Perverted-Justice (known as PJ) uses PJ operatives posing as underage teens on the internet to identify potential child molesters and turn the information over to the police and the courts. The news program Dateline NBC features the recurring segment "To Catch a Predator", based on documenting such activities.

An organization called Crisp Thinking has created a service intended to identify grooming and warn parents, allowing them to install software that studies chat room and other Instant messaging logs for activity they have determined may identify grooming or other potentially suspicious activities. It has also adapted its technology to social networking services and ISPs.

Another software company in the UK has developed a program that hold as competitor to Crisp, called Sentry Parental Controls It was launched by television personality Coleen Nolan and is supported by Mark Williams-Thomas, a leading expert in child protection.

Criminal offences


In its report, Protection of Children Against Abuse Through New Technologies, the Council of Europe Cybercrime Convention Committee addressed the emerging issues of violence against children through the use of new technologies (the issue of child pornography on the Internet is already covered by Article 9 Convention) with particular reference to grooming both through the internet and by mobile telephones.

Some States have already criminalized grooming in their national legislation.


Australian Criminal Code Act 1995 section 474.26 and 474.27 prohibits the use of a "carrier service" to communicate with the intent to procure a person under the age of 16, or expose such a person to any indecent matter for the purposes of grooming.

The various states and territories have similar laws, some of which use a different age (for example the victim need only be under 18 in Queensland).


In Canada, Criminal Code section 172.1 makes it an offence to communicate with a child through a computer system for the purpose of committing a sexual offence (termed "luring a child").

United Kingdom

In England and Wales, sections 14 and 15 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 make it an offence to arrange a meeting with a child, for oneself or someone else, with the intent of sexually abusing the child. The meeting itself is also criminalized.

The Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005 introduced similar provision for Scotland.

Thus, a crime may be committed even without the actual meeting taking place and without the child being involved in the meeting (for example, if a police officer has taken over the contact and pretends to be that child). In R v T (2005) EWCA Crim 2681, the appellant, aged 43, had pretended to befriend a nine-year-old girl, but had done very little with her before she became suspicious and reported his approaches. He had a number of previous convictions (including one for rape) and was described as a "relentless, predatory pedophile". The Court of Appeal upheld a longer than commensurate sentence of eight years' imprisonment with an extended licence period of two years.

United States

In the United States, makes it an offense to transmit information about a person below the age of 18 for the purpose of committing a sexual offense. Some states have additional statutes covering seducing a child online, such as the Florida law that makes "Use of a Computer to Seduce a Child" a felony (ironically authored by then State Senator Mark Foley, who as a Congressman authored the federal law against child grooming and resigned from office due to allegations of grooming and sexual harassment of underaged males).


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