Like many young people during the pandemic, 11-year-old Lisa really missed face to face contact with her friends and spent increasing amounts of time on social media and online chat forums.
Her parents became so worried about online grooming and bullying that they reached out for help and Safe and Sound got involved to help Lisa, who has learning difficulties, to understand and better cope with what was happening.
One to one support sessions included work around online safety, relationships and reporting abuse and, after a while, Lisa told her case worker that she had been contacted on what is supposed to be a young person’s chat forum, by a man who, after friendly chats, starting sending rude photographs of himself – pressuring her to do the same.
Desperate to make friends but lacking internet ‘etiquette’ skills, she was also experiencing name calling and bullying from other young people on social media which was obviously upsetting.
Lisa’s mum explained: “Although she understands that talking to people online can be dangerous, she often struggles to apply conversations to real life situations and we were getting very worried about who she was talking to and what she was seeing online.
“The isolation that she felt during the pandemic obviously made things much worse and, instead of being in her normal routine, she was spending more and more time online.
“The man who contacted her lived in India and we have done everything we can to block him and even disconnected the internet to prevent her going online and keep her safe.
“After working with Safe and Sound, she understood that she was not to blame for what happened. She thought he was a friend but now recognises that he was in the wrong and refers to him as a ‘bad man’. She even decided to report what had happened to CEOP which shows she has a much better understanding about online grooming.
“With life starting to return to normal and the work that Safe and Sound have done with her, things are improving and she has far safer and more positive friendship groups.
“We are grateful to Safe and Sound for working with our daughter in a way that helps her to relate the subject matter to her own life such as visual prompts that she can refer back to.
“It has been a worrying time for the whole family but hopefully we can now move forward in a much more positive way.”