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 Social Media Grooming, Rape and Murder –

As part of our ongoing analytical endeavour to unmask as many pitfalls of cyber bullying and social media grooming possibilities that seem to be on the surge recently, we decided to speak about several instances of online grooming and how we can analyse situations carefully to avoid grave outcomes.

You can read more on about what we have to say on the misuse of social media.

Social Media Grooming

When Kayleigh Haywood (15 years) accepted the friend request by Luke Harlow (28 years),

little did she know that she would be signing her death warrant. The innocent teenager did not suspect for one minute that behind all the compliments and sweet messages, there was danger lurking.

After luring in the teenager, the accused managed to persuade her to lie to her parents and meet him on the 13th of November, under the pretence that she would be staying with one of her girlfriends. However, that night, after plying her with alcohol, Luke Harlow and is neighbour Stephen Beadman assaulted, raped and finally murdered Kayleigh in a wood near the house where she was held, hostage.

Of course, both individuals were apprehended and sentenced but that doesn’t mean that Kayleigh will come back. “Kayleigh’s Love Story”; a harrowing short movie was shown to parents and children at schools across the region, by the police in Leicestershire, in order to create awareness of social media grooming. After the movie was shown, 35 children reported possible incidents of social media grooming to the authorities.

Recently, in Sri Lanka, the Sunday Times reported a similar incident where two youths were apprehended following the charges of rape, extortion and forceful child pornography. In this instance, two sisters of the same family were groomed on social media after one of the sisters received a smartphone and created an account on Facebook. Within a short period of time, she had added an unknown individual onto her friend list and even divulged extremely personal matters to this stranger, including the fact that her former boyfriend was holding “nudes” of herself. The stranger offered to help and asked her to share these images with him, which she did.

Then began a long tale of extortion, blackmail, rape and child pornography that ended when the two suspects from the Kolonnawa, Meethotamulla area were apprehended.

What is Social Media Grooming?

Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking. Children and young people can be groomed online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone they know – for example, a family member, friend or professional.

Why does it happen?

When it comes to online safety, we really do tend to cut it short. Displaying personal images on our social media profiles, sharing contact details online, accepting requests of strangers can all be calling to danger. It’s easy for a paedophile, psychopath or any other nefarious individual to hide behind a phone or a computer and type out some great lines that will eventually earn the trust of an inexperienced girl or boy.

Lack of education is another core factor in all this. Especially in a country like Sri Lanka, kids are kept under “lock and key”, so to speak with parents watching over them strictly. This is good, as I realize now since I am a bit older, but how much is too much? Forcing your children to not associate friends, use a phone and attend parties etc, could push today’s younger generation (rather stubborn as they are) to try out these activities in secret. Forbidden fruit tastes the sweetest they say.

Lack of self-respect when it comes to girls can have a big role to play as well. The fact that they are convinced that giving nudes, or giving into the wishes of their boyfriends is mandatory if not to lose them, says a lot about the level of confidence and empowerment that young girls of today have.

Teenage years are always really, really crappy. Ask the world’s teenagers if they are happy and they would probably laugh in your face. Add to this the overwhelming need to be popular, to try out new things, to be cool and being convinced that your parents do not understand you; it’s a recipe for disaster.

How can we stop this from happening?

  • Parents can keep an eye out for any erratic behavior changes in their kids, especially young adults and teenagers.
  •  Be a friend, not a bouncer. I cannot stress this enough. I can tell from having spent my teenage years under “cool” parent supervision, that the more friendly parents are, more likely that your difficult teens will open up to you. They are less inclined to hide things from you.
  •  Be vigilant about your child’s online activity. If they do happen to be online for the better part of the day, try to figure out why.

The truth is, the world is a cruel place. People are more often than not looking out for themselves. Nothing comes without a catch and inexperience can really turn things into a downward spiral.

There is no reason to be afraid of social media and your kids becoming social, if you are brave about opening up to them on their level and talking to them as a friend, an equal, not a minor.


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