Children are spending more time online to study, play games and connect with friends but it is important that they have the skills to identify the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships online. By equipping students with online safety knowledge and skills we can ensure they know what to do if they start to feel unsafe online.
What is grooming?
Grooming is when an adult tries to build a relationship with a child so that they can sexually exploit them. Exploitation isn’t always physical, it can happen online. Groomers try to build an online relationship with the child through social media, chatting in a forum, chatting in an online game or via any other platform for online communication.
If you want to learn more about how groomers get close to children and how they keep control, you can refer to Netsafe(external link).
Grooming and online gaming
Some individuals can target children online while they are playing games. Remind students never to give out personal information to anyone while gaming like their name, age or school they attend. Remind them to never meet anyone offline who they only know through gaming.
Some groomers may try and encourage children to move from the game into a private chat room. Just like you wouldn’t go to a different place in the real world with a stranger, you shouldn’t go onto a different game or platform with someone you only know online.
For more information about gaming safety visit Netsafe(external link).
Safeguarding Children(external link) have developed an eLearning module for anyone working with tamariki in the intermediate sector, for example, a teacher, teacher's aide, parent/whānau helper or administrator. The module provides information on the prevention of child abuse, and how to recognise and respond to child safety and wellbeing concerns.
The below resources can be used by educators to reinforce online safety skills around grooming, consent and healthy relationships:
- Keeping Ourselves Safe(external link) is a child abuse prevention programme developed by NZ Police for schools which helps students how to recognise the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships in the physical and online worlds, and encourage students who have been or are being abused to seek help.
- The Ministry of Education provides helpful guidance to support Relationships and Sexuality Education for years 1-8. This programme focuses strongly on consensual, healthy and respectful relationships as being essential to student wellbeing. You can check it out here: Relationships and sexuality education: A guide for teachers, leaders and boards of trustees(external link).
- NZ Police and Kidpower International have developed the Kidpower Confident Kids Programme(external link) to develop young people’s social-emotional safety skills to help them have safe experiences online and offline. It includes child protection strategies and coaching strategies to help build children’s safety skills and confidence without scaring them.
- Online friends and strangers(external link) is a presentation that encourages students to think about their online friendships and what to do if an online friendship becomes unsafe.
- The Mighty Heros(external link): an animated series from the eSafety that teaches children aged 4–8-years-old about trusting their feelings and asking for help when something doesn’t feel right.
- Hector’s World(external link): an engaging animated series supported by lesson plans and worksheets, offering 4–8-year-old children practical guidance on protecting their personal information and figuring out who is trustworthy online.