By Evangelina Taurizano 11:08 pm PST
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For a long time, we have been talking about social networks and their influence on our lives.

How do the things that really matter happen to us and who are those that influence our decisions and our thoughts?.

Perhaps for those of us who already have a few decades under our belt it is a little easier to discern, but for children, who are in the process of forming their personality and for those who do not have a strong enough structure, these types of influences can be lethal.

In recent days, the news came as a surprise that one of the biggest influencers in Japan turned out not to be who she/he was depicted..

Face editing: Japanese biker tricks internet into thinking he is a young woman by using a fake photo. (Photo:Zonggu’s Twitter)

Azusagakuyuki is a Japanese character who has grown exponentially on social media in recent times. Also known as Souya no sōhi, her success is based on touring the Japanese country on a motorcycle.

In the last month, the photos of this supposed motorcycle girl managed to triple the followers on her social networks.

Undoubtedly, all influencers use different types of filters to a greater or lesser extent, but here it goes much further.

This influencer not only used filters to look more attractive but also directly changed his gender and age, perpetrating a real deception to his followers.

The Japanese motorcycle girl turned out to be a 50-year-old man.

How many times have we said and heard: Do not believe everything you see on the networks?

How much of what we see or take in is real? Who is hiding behind the images and phrases that are displayed second by second on the different networks?

My biggest concern is always minors. Millions of children and adolescents spend hours and days glued to a screen following who knows who or what. Predators who take advantage of this situation of vulnerability can carry out the most macabre plans.

One of them is online Grooming, do you know what it is about?

Online grooming (online sexual harassment and abuse) is a criminal form of harassment that involves an adult who comes into contact with a child or adolescent in order to gradually gain their trust and then involve them in sexual activity.

This practice has different levels of interaction and danger: from talking about sex and sharing intimate material, to having a sexual encounter.

It is a process in which a bond of trust is created between the victim and the harasser. The latter tries to isolate the minor little by little, and this is achieved by detaching him/her from his/her support network (family, teachers, friends, etc.) and creating an atmosphere of secrecy and intimacy.

In the case of online grooming, the abuser sends, through technological means, sexual material to the child. In addition, the images are often passed off as a minor and the language is adapted to the age of the victim. It is violence just as real as physical violence, but from which you cannot escape.

THE PHASES OF ‘ONLINE GROOMING’

Online grooming includes a series of behaviors that can be disorderly, but, in general, there are patterns of behavior and common phases that we are going to see below in order to detect and prevent it.

1) The Creation of a Bond of Trust.

In many cases, through bribes or deception, the aggressor contacts the child and establishes the bond of trust. To do this, he/she usually feigns another age, very close to that of the victim. In addition, the abuser may give gifts, empathize on a deep level with children by making them listen to their problems, and use that information to blackmail later.

2) Isolation of the Victim.

In this phase, the aggressor seeks to replace or infiltrate the minor’s natural support network (family, friends, teachers, etc.) leaving him/her unprotected. In this way the aggressor insists on the need to keep everything secret.

3) The Assessment of Risks.

The aggressor always tends to secure his/her position, so he/she usually asks the victim if anyone else knows about their relationship and tries to find out who else has access to the computer or device that the minor uses.

4) Conversations about Sex.

Once he/she feels confident, the abuser gradually begins to introduce sexual conversations. He/she ensures that the victim becomes familiar and comfortable with both the sexual theme and the vocabulary.

5) Petitions of a Sexual Nature.

This is the main objective of online grooming. In this last phase, the criminal uses manipulation, threats, blackmail or coercion so that the victim sends him/her sexual material, relates sexual fantasies or the relationship culminates in a physical sexual encounter.

HOW TO PREVENT ‘GROOMING’?

Faced with such a complex phenomenon, the response must be comprehensive and the most effective way to act against online violence is based on prevention. The best thing to do is to intervene through positive education for children and adolescents.

In the first place, an affective-sexual education is necessary, which trains the youngest in matters of predatory sexuality. And, at the same time, training in the safe and responsible use of digital tools is important.

It is essential to bear in mind that, especially in online grooming, deception slowly builds and there is no consent from the child—they are not aware of what is happening to them, and they do not have the appropriate tools to defend themselves. It is never the child’s fault.

In short, communication and affective-sexual education, together with the support of the environment closest to the minors, are the most effective tools, both to prevent violence, as well as to avoid perpetuating its long-term consequences.

Therefore, as I always tell my dear readers, nothing is more important than being attentive and present to protect children and adolescents from what this whole new world of immediate communication has in store for them.