Online grooming, online sexual abuse and exploitation
“Online Grooming” describes the process of developing a friendship or relationship with a child online, with the intention of sexually abusing or exploiting them.
Offenders may use social networks, online games or live streaming sites to identify and communicate with vulnerable young people. Once an offender has gained their trust, they may suggest meeting up in person, or (more commonly) encourage the child to share sexual pictures or videos of themselves; these pictures and/or videos can then be used by the perpetrator to coerce or blackmail them into further sexual activity.
Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation can/may:
- Occur through online chats, pictures, videos or webcams and the young person may never physically meet their abuser
- Begin online then move offline
- Be perpetrated by individuals or groups, males or females, other children or adults
- Be a one-off or a series of incidents over time
- Affect any young person under the age of 18 years.
Some signs that may indicate a child is experiencing online sexual abuse include:
- Being secretive about who they’re talking to or what they’re doing online
- Spending significantly more or less time on their phone or social media
- Changes in mood or behaviour immediately after using the internet
- Self-harming or feeling suicidal.
It is not always the case that “online groomers” lie about their identity or pretend to be a child themselves; in some cases, the young person may legitimately believe they are in a relationship with the perpetrator and may not recognise that they are being abused.
If you are concerned about a young person you care for, follow your existing safeguarding procedures. For more information about Online Sexual Abuse and Exploitation, take a look at Child Exploitation Online Protection Centre website.