To mark International Missing Children’s Day, AMBER Alert Europe, non-governmental organisations in the field of child protection and law enforcement officers from around the globe involve influencers in the fight against online grooming with a cryptic TikTok dance challenge.
A seemingly ordinary TikTok dance challenge was launched by various well-known influencers around the globe. Now, it is revealed that this viral dance challenge was in fact staged to educate teenagers on the signs of online grooming.
The challenge kicks off a global prevention campaign, #CheckBeforeYouChat, by missing children’s foundation AMBER Alert Europe that brought together NGOs, law enforcement officers and influencers worldwide to fight the alarming increase in online grooming cases during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused social isolation, leading to an alarming increase in online grooming cases. Online grooming is when an adult befriends children online and builds their trust, often leading to sexual abuse, both online and in-person.
Earlier this month, the song “Love Birds”, secretly containing the five stages of online grooming in its lyrics, was officially released on TikTok (an app very popular among young people) along with a choreographed dance which interpreted the song into a 5-step dance challenge. With the help of well-known dancers on the TikTok circuit, the 5-step dance challenge was replicated by thousands of unsuspecting TikTokers worldwide.
Right before International Missing Children’s Day, which serves as a symbolic kick-off date, the second part of the campaign was set in motion. This time, dancers and campaign partners posted videos of themselves standing still and revealing the true meaning behind the TikTok challenge.
“Even though the signs were right in front of them, they still didn’t notice what was going on”, says Frank Hoen, Chairman and Founder of AMBER Alert Europe. “This is exactly what happens with online grooming. Often the signs remain unnoticed until it’s too late. We want to make sure children are aware of the fact that online not everything is what it seems and they should be wary of who they communicate with on social media, apps or games. Always #CheckBeforeYouChat.”
Ricardo Wolff, Executive Creative Director at INNOCEAN BERLIN, says “When we were approached by AMBER Alert Europe to address this hideous army of online groomers (approximately 750.000 daily), it was clear that another PSA campaign wouldn't do it. We needed to let people experience how easy it is to be fooled by groomers. And that’s how we came up with “Love Birds”. A TikTok hit that actually serves as a trojan horse to AMBER Alert Europe’s mission: educating kids and parents about online grooming and how to protect themselves.”
Detective Superintendent Rebecca Mears, Head of Protecting Vulnerable People at Thames Valley Police, said: “Online offending has no boundaries. It is too easy for grooming to happen in plain sight and even easier online. We all have a responsibility to be constantly aware, to put in place protective measures, both as adults caring for children and teenagers, but also to increase their own awareness so they can protect themselves as much as possible.”
For more information about the campaign, please visit: https://www.checkbeforeyouchat.com/