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Project Rescue Children: Role Playing online – What is it and is your child doing it?

Project Rescue Children recently received a heartbreaking message from a concerned mother. With her consent we have shared this with you:

“I am not sure what to do and I am not even sure why I am contacting you but I have no one to talk to and I don’t know what to do. I’m ashamed, embarrassed and scared. My daughter is 14 and we recently let her to have Instagram as all her friends have it. We took the right steps by knowing the passwords and even had her account linked to mine so we can see what she was doing and keep an eye on her activity. her posts, comments, everything looked so normal but we noticed over time that she became more and more obsessed with Instagram, she was on her phone every chance she could get. The time she was spending on Instagram did not add up with what we could see her doing on the account.

Yesterday she left her phone in the kitchen when she was in the shower and I saw a message pop up. I saw it was a private message and read “I take off your bra and grab your big boobs”. I was able to open her phone to find an instagram account that I had never seen before. It was a fake account and did not have her real name or photo (thank god!) but the phone kept beeping with messages.I kept scrolling through and saw message after message was being sent to my daughter of this filthy dirty talk. I was scrolling up the chats trying to make sense of what was going on and saw the messages would start with her being asked “Do you want to DRP?” I had no idea so I checked google and it showed me this meant dirty role play. My precious daughter was being spoken to in the most horrific, violent and disgusting ways that I have never been spoken to like in my life. I feel sick that my daughter has been asked to role play rape scenes, violent sex scenes and spoken to in the worst language. We are a very conservative yet close knit family and I have no idea how this has happened. I feel sick and I feel like my daughters innocence has been taken away.

I am too scared to tell my husband or speak to anyone else about it and I don’t know what to do. I have confronted her and have taken all devices away from her for now until I decide what to do next. I didn’t know who to talk to, please help me?”

You can only imagine what this poor mother is feeling. We nurture our babies and protect them and to see them exposed to “Dirty Role Playing” is heartbreaking. We are working with this mother on strategies to help both her and her daughter but we have chosen to blog about this so parents can be aware of the trend of Role Playing, warning signs that your child is participating and what you can do to protect your child.

What is role playing?

Role playing (rp) is a practice on many social media platforms including instagram where two or more people may role play a game through private message. Role Playing can be innocent where they are “acting out scenario’s” and assuming the identity of a famous person or movie actor. This form of role playing may seem innocent but there are concerns why a child needs to role play and act out a different life. There may be a underlying message that the child is trying to escape reality. We have heard cases were children act out self harm and other self abuse behaviours through role play.

More sinister is Dirty Role Playing (drp)and this is where messages exchanged on private messages take on a sexual nature, sometimes in a more violent and perverse tone than you can imagine. This is where each participant may either assume an identity or even play themselves but in scenarios where they act out a sexual scene through messages. Basically it’s acting out a pornography scene online. DRP can also lead to sexting (the swapping of suggestive images) and is a common tactic by predators as part of the grooming process. In some cases this is all the predator is looking for to fulfil their sick needs but it may also be part of the grooming strategy to ultimately lure the child.

Most concerning is that these exchanges can and do happen between tweens/teens. Children that have been exposed to pornography often move into DRP. What parents do not realise is just how accessible pornography is to children these days. Simply type #SEX into the Instagram search bar and right there is pornography.

Signs to look for that your child is Role Playing

As you will see with the parents above they thought they were doing the right thing. Allowing their child access to Instagram but monitoring it. What we as parents forget is that it does not matter what we do – our children are pioneers of the social media age – they are always going to be one step ahead of us. The child in the case study above simply set up a new fake profile and her parents were non the wiser. Here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • Excessive use – like an addiction they seem to be on their device 24/7

  • Sneaky behaviour – sneaking the phone behind your back to bed, family functions or anywhere that you have said no devices

  • Hiding the phone – changing their passcodes, shutting the screen down qquickly when you walk past, turning the phone off anything like that

  • With girls you may see a dramatic change in their appearance and the way they dress. They may suddenly start to dress more provactively

  • Language – you may notice a change in their language and using words of a sexual nature that you know that you have never said in front of them

What can parents do?

Can we stop our children being online? Realistically no, not in a world that we live in today that is driven by technology, schools rolling out one to one device programs, we are now living in a society where we rely on the internet to practically run our lives.

It is up to you as parents when you decide your children can be on social media. The later the better but only a parent can understand the level of their child’s maturity and what they can handle. However the KEY TO KEEPING YOUR KIDS SAFE ONLINE IS COMMUNICATION. You need to consistently check in on your child with their online activity. Be friends with them online and keep an eye on the amount of time they are spending online.


Talk about respecting themselves online and never say anything online that they wouldn’t say to someone face to face. 95% of tweens/teens who engage with DRP would never say what they say in that scenario face to face.

Remind them that every post, comment and picture needs to pass the Nanna Test – “Would you post that if Nanna could see it” If the answer is No then simply don’t post.

Parents make sure you have their passwords and keep checking their devices. Explain to your child this is not to breach their privacy but just to protect them. Agree to not read all their conversations with friends just skim for keywords when you have a concern. Pay special attention to any friends that you are not familiar with as there is a good chance this is a fake profile.

Project Rescue Children has a contract we encourage parents use with their children that we have attached below. This is an Agreement between you and your child about the responsible use and expectations of online use. Parents it is up to you – You are the only ones that can keep your children safe online and check in on your children’s friends whose parents may not be proactive in their child’s online life. If you see anything suspicious on your child’s account please don’t delete – please seek help and report it!

Please share this post with your network as the more parents that are informed of online trends with our children the better fighting chance we have to keep our children safe!

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