It is a term that reaches the public opinion between 2010-2013, becoming a legal element established in the criminal code of many countries, however, its conception goes back to the very beginning of the Internet in the late twentieth century, as a practice adopted by child predators in the new digital territory, becoming a growing problem in our society that forced the justice system to take action. Countries that enforce punishment for this, and the year-long sentence this charge carries, include Costa Rica (2013), Argentina (2013), Chile (2011), Spain (2010) and Brazil (2008) among others, while Mexico adopts it only until 2019, pushed by the Olimpia Act.
The root responds to the verb ‘to groom’, which implies the idea of conditioning, caring for or preparing, giving way to the so-called ‘social grooming’, which denotes the behaviors of numerous animal species, in which their specimens groom, deworm, or contribute to the hygiene and well being of their peers to establish social ties and eventually pay back the same favors.
That is precisely what online grooming is based on; the adult gaining the minor’s trust in order to bring them to their ground, and subsequently be able to manipulate them. This approach is usually (in probably 99% of the cases) for sexual motives, in order to later abuse of the child in some way.
Through the established bond of trust, the adult obtains personal information from the minor, such as their telephone number, address, or confessions on various subjects. As they collect the information, either through pressure or social engineering, they continue to look for things of a more intimate nature, such as compromising photographs. Having something capable of embarrassing the minor and putting them in a predicament with their parents opens the possibility of a threatening climate that is activated from the moment when new information can no longer be voluntarily obtained.
As a result, the minor gets in a downward spiral: he is providing information and material to his extortionist making the task easier for the latter. The only way out is to report it, something that is never easy, given the exposure it implies, enhanced by the fear of the parents’ reaction.
In addition, groomers often have the ability to make the victim believe that it is their fault. Getting rid of this belief inevitably requires the support of the parents and/or an outside professional figure.