Child grooming is a serious and alarming issue that affects children all over the world. Child groomers are opportunistic predators who use technology to manipulate and exploit children for their own sexual gratification. Many popular mobile apps are often used by them to target vulnerable children. In this blog post, we will discuss some of the apps that are commonly used by child groomers so that parents and caregivers can be aware of them and take steps to protect their children.
Introduction to Child Grooming and Technology
With the advent of technology, predators have found new and innovative ways to lure children into dangerous situations, with some victims not even needing to have left their home to have been trafficked. In recent years, the use of mobile apps has become increasingly popular among predators. Over 444 million users utilize social media currently, making the web an online marketplace for grooming and trafficking.
Popular Apps Used by Child Groomers
Facebook and Instagram
Facebook and Instagram are two of the most popular social media platforms that child groomers use to target their victims. They often create fake profiles and pretend to be someone else to gain the trust of children. They can then use these profiles to send inappropriate messages or images, or to lure children into meeting in person.
Snapchat is another popular app used by child groomers. It allows users to send disappearing messages and images, making it difficult for parents and caregivers to monitor their child's online activity. Groomers can use this app to send inappropriate content to children or to convince them to meet in person.
TikTok is a social media app that has gained immense popularity among young people. However, it is also an app that child groomers have been known to use to target their victims. Groomers can use the app to send inappropriate messages or to gain the trust of children by liking and commenting on their videos. There is debate on whether this app is soon to be banned completely in the U.S.
Kik is a messaging app that is popular among teenagers. It allows users to send messages, images, and videos anonymously, making it an ideal platform for child groomers. Groomers can use this app to initiate conversations with children without revealing their true identity.
WhatsApp is a messaging app that is used by millions of people around the world. However, it is also an app that child groomers have been known to use to target their victims. Groomers can use this app to send inappropriate content to children or to convince them to meet in person. This app is marketed as utilizing end-to-end encryption and has been hacked in recent years.
Whisper is a social networking app that allows users to share their secrets anonymously. It is popular among teenagers, making it an ideal platform for child groomers. Groomers can use this app to initiate conversations with children and send inappropriate content.
Omegle is a free online chat app that connects users randomly. It is widely used by teenagers and young adults, making it a popular choice for child groomers. Groomers can use this app to pretend to be someone else and lure children into dangerous situations.
LiveMe is a live streaming app that allows users to broadcast themselves to a large audience. It is often used by children and teenagers, making it an ideal platform for child groomers. Groomers can use this app to initiate conversations with children and lure them into meeting in person.
MeetMe is a social networking app that is designed to help users meet new people. It is often used by teenagers and young adults, making it a popular choice for child groomers. Groomers can use this app to send inappropriate messages or images and initiate conversations with children.
Discord is a popular app used by gamers to communicate with each other. However, it is also used by child groomers to target children who are interested in gaming. Groomers can use this app to send inappropriate content and initiate conversations with children.
Pinterest is categorized as a social media app, but functions more conclusively as a search engine. This make it increasingly easy for inappropriate content to be less filtered and allows users to chat with each other and predators often use this to lure minors into meeting in person. Its users are primarily female within its current 444 million users worldwide. Most of these users are minors. 34% of users live in rural areas. (Source: HootSuite).
Apps to Monitor: Lemon8
Lemon8 was made by the same company as TikTok. Using an intuitive algorithm, the app learns its user. Content is user-generated and shared to a feed, similar to Facebook and Pinterest, and utilizes an infinity (endless) scroll making inappropriate content more accessible. Poor age verification makes it easy for children and minors under 18 to join.
Peegle Live is an app that initially appeared innocuous, marketed as a social platform utilizing tech that includes live streaming, multi-user live streaming, video, and audio broadcasting. The app gained popularity due to its colorful interface and the promise of interaction with other users. Unfortunately, hidden beneath this facade lies a sinister motive – the exploitation of vulnerable children.
Child grooming refers to the process by which adults establish trust and manipulate minors, ultimately for their own illicit intentions. Peegle Live employs various grooming tactics, such as:
Establishing a false sense of security: Predators on Peegle Live may use fake profiles, pretend to be children themselves, and engage in friendly conversations to establish trust and familiarity with their targets.
Offering rewards and privileges: By offering in-app rewards, virtual currency, or exclusive privileges, predators entice children to engage in further interactions, creating a sense of indebtedness and loyalty.
Normalizing inappropriate behavior: Over time, groomers may introduce explicit or inappropriate content to desensitize children and make them believe such actions are normal or acceptable.
Manipulating emotions: Predators exploit the vulnerabilities of children by offering emotional support, empathy, and understanding, gradually isolating them from their support systems and making them more susceptible to manipulation.
Protecting Children from Grooming Apps: Tips for Parents and Guardians
It is important to note that these apps are not inherently dangerous, and many children use them safely every day. However, it is crucial for parents and caregivers to be aware of the risks associated with these apps and to monitor their child's online activity. Here are some tips to help keep children safe:
Talk to your child about the risks of talking to strangers online.
Set clear rules for your child's online activity, including which apps they can use and when.
Monitor your child's online activity and have access to their social media accounts.
Encourage your child to tell you if they receive any inappropriate messages or images online.
Report any suspicious activity to the app or website's support team and to law enforcement.
Limit the amount of personal information your child shares online.
Use parental control software to monitor your child's online activity.
Talk to your child about what to do if they receive inappropriate messages or images.
Teach your child how to recognize and report suspicious behavior online.
Encourage your child to be open and honest about their online activity and ask for help if they need it.
Staying Vigilant in the Fight Against Child Grooming
Important note: minors under the age of 18 do not need privacy. This leads to an increase in vulnerability and isolation, as seen in the 2012 case of Amanda Todd. Groomers will also seek and exploit their victims in other ways, including Xbox Live and popular location monitoring apps such as Life360. All information conducted on a phone is stored on its SIM, similar to it being stored on a computer hard drive. Nothing is truly ever hidden and as parents and caregivers, this needs to be a tool and weapon used to protect children from predators.
In conclusion, child grooming is a serious issue, and it is essential for parents and caregivers to be informed about the apps that child groomers commonly use. By being aware of these apps and taking steps to protect children online, we can help keep our children safe.