Family Lives Responds to The Oxford Child-Sex Grooming Gang

Jeremy Todd, From Family Lives said:

“In recent weeks, the press has tragically contained numerous stories of perverted and depraved gangs grooming and abusing young girls.  The whole family can play an active role in educating both themselves and their children about the dangers of sexual exploitation.   Family Lives encourages ALL parents, relatives and other adult carers to have conversations with their children about the consequences of inappropriate predatory sexual advances. Parents can contact Family Lives and equip themselves with support and information on how to talk to their kids about engaging in risky behaviour.  More must be done to tackle child sexploitation perpetrated by gangs throughout the UK.  We hope this recent court case will help to shine a spotlight on this issue and help get parents and young people talking about how to keep themselves safe in both the real and virtual world.  Recent research by Family Lives and Drinkaware showed that simple messages about keeping children safe from (online) predators are simply not getting through. Keeping computers in an open area of the home is key, yet our research found that half of 10-12 year olds we have unsupervised access to a computer in their bedroom, increasing their vulnerability to online grooming. 

It is also essential to equip children and young people – both in the family or in Care -  with the skills and resilience to recognise when an unhealthy relationship forming and to get themselves out of danger.   Building self-esteem and recognising the warning signs form part of a package of skills that TeenBoundaries, part of Family Lives, aims to equip young people with during a short course of workshops delivered in schools during PSHE lessons.  

The 7000 young people who have already taken part in Family Lives’ workshops have learnt valuable lessons about keeping themselves safe, recognising grooming and sexualised bullying - which can be the first warning of sexually abusive behaviour to come - and setting their own boundaries and simply  asking for help if they are out of their depth.   Many parents call Parentline, our free round the clock helpline, because they are concerned about their child's early sexualised behaviour, or because they know that their child has fallen in with the wrong crowd.  If you have any concerns or want more information on how to keep your children safe then visit www.familylives.org.uk or call Parentline on 0808 800 2222.”

Family Lives Top Tips for Parents Concerned about Sexual Exploitation

  • Having a plan will make your life easier.  Rather than waiting for something bad to happen, think about when and how you are going to start and keep the conversation going about topics like grooming, sexting etc. Use a storyline from an article or TV programme to start up the conversation about this 
  • Pick a time when neither of you feel rushed or under pressure.  Avoid starting a conversation just as your child is going to bed or walking out the door.  
  • Get to know their friends’ parents. They’ll probably share your concerns, so you could agree on rules around technology and supervision. You can also share anecdotes about the questions your children have asked, which might help you prepare for your own conversations.
  • Talk to your teen about sex and relationships and let them know that respecting one another is important. They should not have to feel forced into doing anything they are not comfortable with and they can come and talk to you or a teacher if they feel pressured.
  • Encourage your child to report any incidents of possible sexual bullying or grooming at home, at school or outdoors whether they are involved or not.
  • Make it clear that any incidents of sexual bullying or exploitation are unacceptable no matter where they are and that it will not be tolerated.
  • Do not dismiss sexist language or behaviour as funny. Remember that you need to a role model for them and they will look to you to determine what is right and what is wrong.