sexual exploitation doesn’t just happen face to face – it
can also happen online.
Online grooming is when someone uses the internet or a mobile phone
to build an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust
for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation.
The groomers will hide their true intentions, and may even
pretend to be someone else, in order to gain the trust of a young
- Lie about their age or friend group
- Offer advice and understanding
- Buy gifts
- Give the child attention
- Use their professional position or reputation
- Take the child on trips or outings
In order to target a child, groomers might send messages to
hundreds of young people to see if they reply. They may also look
for usernames or comments that are flirtatious, have sexual
meaning, or that suggest a child is vulnerable.
Once they have established trust, the groomer will use their
power to control the child.
A young person who is being exploited online may be persuaded,
or forced, to;
- Send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
- Take part in sexual activities via a web cam, smart phone, or
- Have sexual conversations by text or online
Abusers may threaten to send images, videos, or copies of
conversations to the young person’s friends and family unless they
take part in other sexual activity.
Sometimes online grooming may develop into sexual activity in the
physical world, however, in some cases involve solely online sexual
Children might not speak out abuse because they aren’t aware
they are being abused. They may believe they are in a relationship
with the person, and that they are the only person they can trust.
This is all part of the grooming process.
They might also be reluctant to speak out because they feel
ashamed or guilty, or because they are scared what their abuser
will do if they tell anyone.
If you’re worried that a child you know is being groomed, it’s
important you speak out straight away.
You can call police on 101 (or 999 in an emergency) or make a
report to the Child Exploitation Online Protection
PACE guide on understanding online risks.
There are also a number of other organisations who can offer help and
We’ve also got advice for young people and advice for
parents and carers on how to stay safe online.