Pablo and Tomás are 10 years old. They are classmates and friends. Simultaneously, both began to manifest
and one of them even had a suicide attempt. Although the boys were in treatment, they couldn’t find the reason that had triggered everything. Until one afternoon, Pablo left the computer open and his mother found a video of his son and Tomás having sex. The shock made him decide to take the device to the office. That was the kick to discover that, for two years,
the boys were victims of grooming
. A latent danger for thousands of children and adolescents, considering that
35% have ever been asked to send nude photos
or with little clothing and that
33% received images or videos of sexual content
from a stranger who contacted them online.
The alarming figures emerge from the report presented today by the organization
, after a year of work in which he interviewed more than 4276 boys and girls between 9 and 17 years old from all over the country. Other of the most disturbing data is that
six out of 10 speak to strangers on the Internet and three out of 10 ever met personally
with someone with whom they contacted by that means.
The names were changed to preserve the identity of the children, but the nightmare they lived through is far from fiction. The “game” had begun between Pablo and
a supposed girl her age
, chatting first and sending “sexy photos”, later. However, the girl turned out to be a pedophile who ended up involving Tomás, who had also agreed to exchange images with her. When the impostor began to ask for sexual interaction between the two boys and they refused, he threatened to share the material that was already in his possession with the schoolmates, the principals and the boys’ families. They ended up accepting.
“The results of the study are
worrying and speak of an absence of awareness of danger
on the part of the boys and the girls. They have the ability to manage technology, but not the perception of risk that is not provided by the adult either, because they do not know it. That is why I speak of digital orphans, “says Hernán Navarro, founder of Grooming Argentina.
Anywhere where there are chats and guys on the other side there can be grooming: it can be on Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, TikTok or online games. Is a
characterized by harassment by an adult of children and adolescents through the Internet to obtain
some kind of sexual gratification or sexual imagery
. Generally, it is done from false profiles in which the groomer (as these criminals are known) pose as boys or girls to gain the trust of minors. “The quarantine hyperconnectivity made children and adolescents hypervulnerable,” says Navarro.
Far from being an autonomous crime, it may be accompanied by threats such as extortion, sexual abuse, and the production, distribution, and marketing of childhood sexual abuse material.
To learn more about the scope of this problem, Grooming Argentina carried out the research work between June 2019 and February 2020, including the provinces of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Corrientes, Entre Ríos, Jujuy, La Rioja, Mendoza, Neuquén , Santa Fe and Santiago del Estero.
Among other issues, the report warns of the figure of the digital pedophile as a new sex offender, who often targets several victims of grooming simultaneously. In
30% of cases these are known to the original victim
(whistleblower), which shows that the pedophile is linked to his environment (friends, schoolmates, contacts on his social networks). That was the case of Tomás and Pablo.
49% of children and adolescents were added to a WhatsApp group by strangers without their consent; while 33% of those who use network games, spoke privately with strangers based on invitations received.
How can being a victim of grooming impact boys and girls?
Silvia Ongini, child and youth psychiatrist in the pediatric department of the Hospital de Clínicas and co-author with Silvina Valiente and Denise Tempone of the book
The super power of sex education
explains that when a child or adolescent is exposed to being a victim of grooming, “what constitutes a traumatic situation is exactly the same as that of sexual abuse” because “they are exposed to sexual issues for which many times they are not psychically or maturationally prepared to process. ” In addition, it details that another of the grooming traps is that the victim ends up considering that they also
is guilty of what happened
. To get ahead, you will need immediate support and a favorable response from the family.
7 out of 10 children and adolescents use cell phones to communicate
“In an effort to avoid it, Pablo and Tomás ended up taking their behavior to traumatic limits, which sustained over time,
damaged his mental health
and subsumed them in terrible psychic fragility. Depressed and broken, they could not put into words what they had lived, “explains Ongini, who, along with his team, followed the case. He adds that, if it had not been for that attentive mother who dared to inquire,” perhaps we would not have They could not find the key to their psychological collapse or finish understanding the profound implications that this had on them. “Fortunately, the boys received treatment and Justice acted.
The specialist stresses that, although we cannot control all the variables, there are certain issues related to education that can make boys and girls
“are less likely to bite certain hooks
“We must teach children and adolescents to take care of themselves to avoid abuse and, in the worst case, to defend themselves against them by counting on us as allies. The problem is that no matter how educated our sons and daughters are, due to the immaturity of their brains, some things will definitely not be able to face them alone, “emphasizes Ongini. This is one of the reasons why he indicates that the ideal is that until At the age of 14, boys should not create profiles on the networks or use them in the way that adults do, that is, with total privacy and without anyone having access to their accounts.
Along these lines, from Grooming Argentina they warn about the need for
so that they strengthen their knowledge in digital matters. “In this way, we will be able to build standards of coexistence on the Internet, based on preventive actions and adopting a responsible and safe use of technology. The lack of information in adults affects a significant number of potential complaints that never reach justice, coexisting in the impunity of the black figures, “concludes Navarro.
Tips for mothers and fathers
the adult is always responsible, there is no such thing as “boys alone manage technology, they understand more than I do”. On the contrary, boys and girls should feel that they have the support of a major, even when it comes to the Internet.
about what it is and the consequences of grooming: to know how it works, how many cases there have been lately, if new modalities are given, etc.
Dialogue with the boys:
just as we would with respect to other risks that you may face in your life, with confidence and generating a framework of containment.
Teach them basic rules:
explain to them that on the other side of the screen a person may be lying about their identity; that they should not speak to strangers, and if they do, limit the conversation to the issues at hand, for example, if they are playing online, discuss the strategy; never disclose information such as address, telephone numbers, names of the school they attend, much less access requests such as taking off their clothes, showing a photo or following conversations of a sexual nature. And if that happens, know that they should ask for help and that contact should be stopped.
- Other tips when connecting:
limit the number of people who accept
as friends or contacts in networks or groups; control the people they talk to and the type of content they use in those communications.
- On devices:
know the navigation systems
; read the privacy policies when downloading applications, for example, if it is necessary to be of legal age to download them; among others.
Where to report grooming cases
- In the
Grooming Argentina App
, available for Android and Iphone.
of the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation:
- In the city of Buenos Aires, it can be reported in the
Fiscal Unit Specialized in Computer Crimes and Violations (Ufedyci)
, which depends on the Buenos Aires Public Prosecutor’s Office: 0800-3334-7225 /
- In any
police agency or prosecution
of the country have the obligation to take the complaint.
: information, advice or complaints.