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Online grooming

Online grooming is when someone uses the technology or the internet to build a relationship with a young person, with the intention of  tricking, pressuring or forcing them into doing something sexual, like sending images or videos of themselves.

Online, it is easier for people with these intentions to pretend to be someone they’re not, like a friend, mentor, boyfriend or girlfriend. They can even pretend to be a completely different person and hide who they really are.

Someone who is grooming others online might do this to build trust with them before asking them to do something sexual.

Warning signs

It’s not always easy to tell the difference between someone genuine and someone with bad intentions.

Remember to trust your instincts and seek help if things don’t feel right.

Here are some warning signs to look out for when talking to new people online.

  • It seems too good to be true. They seem to share all of your interests, agree with everything you say, and pay you lots of attention and compliments. They might be trying to make you feel special to gain your trust.  
  • They send lots of messages. They send lots of messages in a short period of time, sometimes across different platforms.
  • They send you sexual messages. These could be flirty and at first, for example saying things about the way you look. But they may try to get you to talk about sex or ask you to send nude images. They might send you nude images of themselves first.
  • They try to keep the conversation private. They ask you to move your conversation somewhere more private, like WhatsApp or Snapchat, or ask you not to tell anyone that you are chatting. They might say you’ll get in trouble if you don’t keep your chat a secret.
  • They try to blackmail you. They say that something bad will happen or they’ll stop talking to you if you don’t do what they tell you to. If you’ve already sent images and videos to them, they might threaten to share these with other people.
  • They avoid video or phone calls. They say their camera or phone is broken. This might be a sign that they’re hiding who they really are. Even if you do see someone on camera, be aware that it is still possible that the video you saw was fake.

Staying safer when chatting online

  • Keep chats in public spaces where others can see your conversations
  • Don’t share personal information like your full name, address or where you go to school
  • Speak to an adult you trust if someone has asked you to do something you aren’t comfortable with

Worried about someone you've met online?

It is against the law for an adult to have sex with anyone under 16, and it is also illegal for someone to put pressure on a young person under 18 to send sexual photos of themselves.

If someone online asks you to do anything you’re not comfortable with, it’s okay to say no or ask them to stop.

You can also block and report them to stop them contacting you again.

If you’re worried, you should tell an adult you trust, like a family member, teacher or youth worker. They will support you and get you the help that you need, or you can report it to CEOP.

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Report it

If you are under 18, report online sexual abuse to one of our Child Protection Advisors at the CEOP Safety Centre.

Report now

If you're over 18, call 101 to speak to your local police. 

In an emergency

If you're ever in immediate harm or danger: 

  • Call the police on 999 straight away
  • Tell an adult you trust who will be able to support you through a difficult time

Talk to someone

Childline logo

Free, confidential support online and over the phone for young people under 19.

Call 0800 1111

The Mix logo

The Mix is a charity that provides free information and support for under 25s.

Use their crisis messenger by texting THEMIX to 85258.

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