The Permanent Seminar of English Language and Linguistics will be holding a meeting on Tuesday, February 25th, at 10.30 in the Sala de Juntas of the Facultat de Filologia, Traducció i Comunicació of the Universitat de València.
Dr. NURIA LORENZO-DUS (Swansea University – Wales) will deliver a talk titled:
‘Online grooming: Communicative stages and paedophile profiles’
Online grooming is an activity that affects a significant proportion of children and teenagers, with reported incidences ranging from 19% (First Youth Internet Safety Survey, YISS-1, 2000) to 35% (Ybarra et al., 2007). The exact magnitude of the problem is difficult to determine: the nature of the crime and the vulnerability of the victims unfortunately mean that many cases go unreported. A recent review of online grooming concludes that, despite it being such a prevalent crime, research into its characteristics is limited (Whittel et al 2013). The present study, funded by the UK Economic and Physical Sciences Research Council ‘Bridging The Gaps’ Programme (2012-2013), contributes to filling this important gap in scholarship by developing a communicative profile of online sexual predators.
Twenty-four online grooming interactions (c. 75,000 words) were randomly selected from Perverted-Justice.com – a project of the Perverted Justice Foundation Inc. which ‘specializes in working chat rooms and social networking sites to fight internet predators who seek to have sex with underage kids’ (www.pjfi.org). Drawing upon extant models of offline grooming communication (Olson et al., 2007), the different grooming stages in these interactions were analysed for linguistic features and paedophile profiles. The analysis reveals that the communicative patterns of online sexual predators overlap only in part with those identified by Olson et al (2007) for offline grooming. A number of communicative features are specific to online communication, such as the frequency and use of implicit and explicit sexual language. The analysis also reveals significant and interesting correlations between a number of communicative components. For example, internet predators with a preference for implicit sexual language use significantly more compliments than those with a tendency to use explicit sexual language, who in turn display a significant trend towards use of ‘small talk’ in their exchanges.
This research is part of larger project that seeks to develop a better understanding of online grooming. The research coordinators of this larger project are Prof Lorenzo-Dus (linguistics) and Dr Izura (psychology). The project foresees future engagement with local schools, police, software companies and organizations such as the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) and the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) centre, to share information, research resources and training.
Nuria Lorenzo-Dus is Professor of Linguistics at the Department of English Language and Literature, Swansea University. She has published widely on media discourse and cross-cultural pragmatics. She is a member of GENTEXT, and the founding Director of the Language Research Centre at Swansea University (http://www.swansea.ac.uk/riah/researchgroups/lrc/)