Researchers have studied the online sexual grooming of minors extensively since the early 2000s. However, the grooming process is neither new nor restricted to digital media. While grooming and child sexual abuse existed long before the Internet, the advent of the Internet has resulted in more ways in which offenders can interact with candidate victims including offline-only, online-only, and a mix of offline and online.
In this study, we conducted a scoping review of grooming strategies both pre- and post-Internet. Our goal was to enumerate strategies analyzed in both time periods, provide similarities and differences, and discuss how changing datasets and technology have impacted the grooming process in both online and offline environments.
We performed a scoping review of peer-reviewed journal articles from 1970 to 2020 within PubMed, Medline, PsychInfo, and ERIC. This resulted in 19,679 unique articles. Titles and abstracts were screened resulting in 266 articles which were then read in full, resulting in 93 papers which qualified based on inclusion criteria.
Grooming strategies identified pre-Internet included: enticements, coercion, isolation, substance abuse, gradual sexualization, and secrecy. In comparison, the strategies identified post-Internet were: enticements, risk assessment, trust, sexualization, fantasy, secrecy, isolation, meeting, media progression, deception, coercion, substance use as a tool, authority, and repetition.
While grooming strategies overlapped pre and post-Internet, the timing and scope of concepts differed. Additionally, grooming offline began to incorporate technology post-Internet which functioned to increase accessibility and isolation of the victim in a similar manner to online grooming.