Recent technological advancements have made the internet and social media far more accessible, with younger people in particular making the most of the benefits that such technology can bring. Unfortunately, this development has been paralleled by a dramatic increase in online sexual offending. Online sexual offending refers to a broad range of behaviours, however, a key preceding element is often the process of grooming. Grooming was acknowledged as a sexual offence by the Sexual Offences Act (2003), however, a lack of stable definition means that there is still a great deal of uncertainty around this concept. Previous research has considered the extent to which young adults understand the grooming concept and have found that their understanding is limited. Furthermore, this research found that participants often failed to identify risky online behaviours as being potentially problematic. The proposed research aims to further the aforementioned study by exploring the extent to which young people, aged between 14 and 25 years, understand the concept of grooming, as well as identifying what they believe constitutes online risky behaviour. This research aims to contribute to a growing picture of how young people in Hampshire understand the risks that are present online, and how to keep themselves safe.
The participant population for this study is young people aged between 14 to 25 years living in Hampshire. These participants will be recruited via the Office for Police and Crime Commissioner Hampshire through their Youth Commission population and by their Cyber Ambassadors who have partnerships with schools and colleges within the county of Hampshire. In order to obtain quantitative data, the first element of the proposed study will be a questionnaire designed using Qualtrics. This questionnaire will consist of 15 substantive questions and 4 demographic questions. Of the substantive questions, 14 will be closed questions and 1 will be an open-ended question designed to obtain a more elaborated answer from the participants. The questionnaire will be distributed via Cyber Ambassador colleagues at the OPCC Hampshire who have a partnership with secondary schools and colleges in Hampshire. Potential participants will be required to read an information sheet and consent form before they are directed to the questionnaire itself. They will then be instructed to answer the questions provided. In order to obtain rich, qualitative data, the above questionnaire will be complemented by a focus group facilitated by the researcher and the Senior Research Officer with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Hampshire via Microsoft Teams. Participants for this focus group will be recruited from the OPCC Youth and Crime Commission via email as above. The focus group will be semi-structured and will consist of 4 topics, all of which are guided by open-ended questions to allow participants to provide as much or as little information as they wish.