To mark International Missing Children’s Day today (25 May), AMBER Alert Europe, non-governmental organisations in the field of child protection and law enforcement officers from around the globe - including two from North Yorkshire Police - 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 it all together to fight the alarming increase in online grooming cases during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The 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 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.”

Police Constable Lydia Dunn and Detective Constable Jessica Allison, from North Yorkshire Police’s Vulnerability Assessment Team, volunteered to provide a video clip to help with the ‘reveal’ part of the campaign to highlight the dangers involved.

PC Dunn said: “Both DC Allison and myself are delighted to help with such an important campaign that gets the message across directly to young people who are most vulnerable to being groomed online.

“The greater the awareness about this issue, the more chance that young people will spot the signs of groomers and avoid the life-long trauma of being a victim of child abuse.”

For more information about the campaign, please visit: https://www.checkbeforeyouchat.com/