ONLINE GROOMING LESSON INTRODUCTION
Grooming is the act of building a relationship, establishing trust, and making an emotional connection with a young person. After establishing a relationship, the trafficker can trick, manipulate and abuse the youth. The Internet has made it incredibly easy for traffickers to hide their identity, connect directly with children, coerce children into sharing explicit images, and trade those images with others. As children in New Jersey stayed home during the pandemic and spent more time on devices, online exploitation by predators increased by over 200%. During COVID-19 for the period of March 1 thru May 23, the NJ Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force received 2380 reports from the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, up from 760 reports in 2019 during the same time period. Although not every report was of a predator victimizing a child, the overall online exploitation numbers more than doubled, illustrating the underlying risks to children and teens of spending more time online. These numbers show no sign of slowing down. Alarmingly, 80% of sex trafficking survivors are US citizens. We often think the opposite – “trafficked individuals are from other countries and not here!”
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