Online grooming prevention: Stop TIME Online

A guest blog post by Rosie Riordan

When I first visited Swansea University to see the venue for the launch of the NSPCC Cymru/Wales and Swansea University Stop TIME Online partnership project, I felt that sort of hushed excitement you get when the lights go down in a theatre and you’re waiting in the wings for your big entrance. After months of planning, designing, re-designing and preparation upon preparation, now all we had to do was actually launch it all.

Stop TIME Online is led by a dedicated team: Ruth Mullineux, Policy Officer at the NSPCC in Cardiff, Professor Nuria Lorenzo-Dus. Principal Investigator on the Online Grooming Communication Research Project at Swansea University, and Laura Broome, also from Swansea University, who studies the trends and patterns of groomers’ online profiles. Their project brief is to provide educational materials for one-to-one or group work between social workers and young people about the dangers of online grooming. It aims to help educate on how online groomers use language to approach and entrap their victims. Professor Lorenzo-Dus’ is the backbone of the project. Her findings show that some paedophiles are such skilful communicators, that they can successfully groom children online within twenty minutes; a disturbing statistic that will always stick with me.

As the Policy and Public Affairs intern, my job is to design the displays for the launch event, capture the spirit and journey of the project in a short two minute video and, of course, write a captivating blog about it all. I joined the team when the project was already on the homestretch and it was an interesting experience. Everybody else had been eating, sleeping and breathing it for months and I was still learning all of their names. After a few days of trying to make sense of it all, of reading up on hundreds of statistics and case studies and introducing myself to the finished designs, I was finally starting to wrap my head around it.

When we first met, I learnt how Nuria, Ruth and Laura had led the project. They’d started by consulting professionals all over Wales, gathering ideas as to how they could present their findings about online grooming to children and young people.

After this, the first concepts for Stop TIME Online were born. It was decided that an activity pack would be designed to help children and young people spot the signs of online grooming. Two acronyms were created: T.I.M.E and S.E.C.O.N.D. The first one described the overall model discovered by Professor Lorenzo-Dus about how online groomers attempt to manipulate a young person through their use of language:

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The S.E.C.O.N.D. acronym focussed more on one key element of this model; how groomers gain the trust of a young person. It originally looked like this:

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These designs were shown at the 2017 “How Safe Are Our Children?” NSPCC annual conference in London. A workshop of eighty attendees gave feedback on the project, which helped to solidify ideas, but the acronym for S.E.C.O.N.D. was still a bit rough around the edges: it needed young people’s voices. So, the project was presented to a group from Evolve Youth Club in Swansea. They responded well to the project and its aims and gave some excellent feedback on the activity pack. Their advice was implemented, helping to make the design more visually and linguistically appealing to young people. The colours were changed, the language was adjusted and a new acronym for S.E.C.O.N.D was crafted:

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All this I learnt in eight short days which made my brain feel like a swarming bee’s hive of activity. The very next day we were scheduled into an all-day Project Team meeting at Swansea University, so I cobbled together thirty seconds of video to show the team and eagerly awaited another day of absorbing information. The meeting was fascinating; I began to realise all the hundreds of details that go into producing such an extensive project as this. Nuria led discussions on things that I hadn’t even contemplated before about the big launch day. What was the capacity of the venue? How many people would be able to attend? In which order would the designated speakers present? Was there to be a hashtag? (You bet! #StopTIMEOnline). We talked about media, press, catering, photography, live streaming and so much more. By the end of the day, my head was spinning with fresh motivation for the video.

My next day in the office, I practically didn’t leave my computer as I ploughed through a first edit of the video. The “journey” which Ruth had asked me to capture, was slowly taking shape and I felt a rush of excitement that I hoped would translate to an audience. I presented it to the office and the feedback I received was supportive and positive.

The week after, with fresh confidence, I made the final touches to the video. A sense of pride washed over me. This project is so important for the safety of children and young people all over the U.K. and it was a fulfilling experience being a part of it. From collating pictures and statistics, to editing the video, designing the displays for the event, re-editing the video, writing this blog and attending meetings with everybody involved, I can now happily share the final product with you! I hope you enjoy it:

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