STRONG – Swansea Team Researching Online Grooming

STRONG is a multidisciplinary project whose principal aim is to find solutions to ensure the safety of children online. Specific aims: 1- Understanding the linguistic behaviour underpinning online grooming; 2- Developing, in collaboration with key stake-holders, effective interventions to detect and prevent online sexual predation.


Despite the increase in online grooming (OG) rates, research into its many aspects is scant. The scarcity of research into OG is also reflected in an over-reliance within research on what we know about grooming in offline settings. This is problematic because claims that online and offline grooming differ in a number of crucial respects can be found in the literature but have only just begun to be investigated.

In addition, it is known that grooming is a communicative process but, there is hardly any research examining OG communication. Again, this is a particularly important gap in knowledge given calls from researchers working on developing OG detection software to develop our understanding of the communicative features of OG (see e.g. Kontostathis et al., 2009). The inter-disciplinary (Linguistics & Psychology) research underpinning this project is, to our knowledge, the first to systematically do so and thus provides a qualitatively different approach to online grooming. Specifically, it advances extant knowledge by identifying and explaining how groomers use language to achieve their goals, from how they develop their victims’ trust in them and isolate them mentally through to how they gauge their victims’ compliance levels at different stages during the grooming process and how they use grooming communication to obtain sexual gratification.

Our review of the advice currently being available to parents and professionals working with children who may be on-going victims of OG corroborates the need for the novel perspective offered by our research. We have conducted a series of ‘training / information dissemination’ events with stakeholders regarding key findings from the research project (please see section on ‘evidence of market interest’ below). These events have confirmed a gap in the materials currently available regarding the ‘how’ of online grooming, specifically the communicative means of online grooming.

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