Researchers from the V.P. Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry and the Moscow State University of Psychology and Education (MSUPE) have conducted a large-scale study of the psychological mechanisms of cyber grooming, sexualized violence against children on the Internet.
According to experts, criminal statistics indicate that the number of crimes against children and adolescents has been increasing in recent years. This also applies to sexual abuse committed using the Internet.
A joint scientific team from the V.P. Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry and the Moscow State University of Psychology and Education (MSUPE) have conducted a detailed analysis of minors affected by cyber grooming. The results of their study were published in the Psychology and Law journal.
According to the authors, their work continues the first Russian study of this problem.
“The abuser establishes a friendly relationship with the child, checking the risk of detection of their conversation. Then he introduces sexualized topics and gets the child to take pictures or actions of an erotic or pornographic nature, or agree to a real meeting,” Elena Dozortseva, Professor at MSUPE, Chief Researcher of the Laboratory of Psychology of Child and Adolescence at the Serbsky State Scientific Center, said.
Experts have examined the affected girls between ages 8 and 18 as part of a forensic psychological and psychiatric examination. According to the researchers, victims of cyber grooming revealed a number of characteristics that make them vulnerable to such abuse.
Half of the surveyed girls had conflicted or socially dysfunctional families with neglectful or alcoholic parents. Two-thirds of those surveyed had experienced neglect or aggression from peers at school. A quarter of the girls had chronic mental health problems, and more than a third had physical health problems that made it difficult for them to communicate in a normal environment.
Parents should understand the risks their children face on the Internet and be more attentive to their virtual contacts, specialists emphasized. The task of parents is to build a trusting relationship with their children and support them in any problematic situation.
"Unfortunately, sometimes parents themselves put children in a vulnerable position by posting photos of them online and making dubious virtual acquaintances. They should be more aware of the consequences of such actions. School teachers and psychologists should pay more attention to non-standard children and adolescents who ‘drop out’ of ordinary communication with peers and have difficulties in adapting and lack of positive attention," Dozortseva said.
Talking with children and teenagers about the possible risks of online dating, as well as timely counseling about relationships between the sexes will develop their own resilience to negative influences, the scientists believe.
Specialists at the V.P. Serbsky State Scientific Center for Social and Forensic Psychiatry and the Moscow State University of Psychology and Education (MSUPE) continue to study cyber grooming to develop prevention mechanisms and promptly combat the phenomenon.