Online exploitation

Online child exploitation and grooming can be difficult to spot.

Learn the signs of online exploitation and how to safeguard young people at risk of online child abuse.

What is online child exploitation?

Online child exploitation is when an individual or group using online platforms takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under 18 into sexual or criminal activity, either online or offline.

What is online grooming?

Online grooming is the act of developing a relationship with a child to enable their abuse and exploitation both online and offline. Online platforms, such as online gaming, social media, messaging and live streaming, can be used to do this.


Risks of online gaming and social media

A downside to our constantly connected global society is there can be many opportunities for gaming and social media to be misused to groom and exploit. 

Here are some of the risks of being online:

  • Anyone can adopt any identity: young people don't always know who they're talking to online.
  • Sharing information: young people can be manipulated into sharing sensitive information and images.
  • Virtual hacking and theft: people access online accounts to steal credit and information. 
  • Online grooming: online gaming platforms can be used to send money and gifts.

Signs of online exploitation

Changes in young people's behaviour could indicate exploitation. Are they:

  • Talking about older or new friends they've met online

  • Talking about gifts or money they have received online

  • Becoming withdrawn and secretive

  • Having a new phone or more than one phone

  • Receiving a large number of calls or messages

  • Worried about being away from their phone


Look out for things that don't seem right - if they don't feel right, they're probaby not.

What to do if you're concerned about child online exploitation

Children and young people have grown up in an interconnected world, where online and offline experiences are both equally real and valid. 

Here are some tips on how to prevent and respond to internet exploitation:

  • Talk to the young person about the dangers of online gaming

  • Discuss the risks of sharing personal data online

  • Turn location settings off and use privacy and parental controls

  • Discuss the dangers of meeting up with someone online and always tell a trusted adult if planning a meet

  • Share the same curiosity for online friends as you would offline friends

Reporting exploitation

⚪ If you are concerned about something you've seen online, let the police know on 101

⚪ Let Child Exploitation Online Protection (CEOP) know

Useful resources

For more information about online safety, visit net-aware, thinkuknow or parentzone.

Help us protect children and young people from all forms of exploitation.

Don't wait. Report it.

⚫ If you are concerned about something you've seen online, let the police know on 101

⚫ Let Child Exploitation Online Protection (CEOP) know

For more information about online safety, visit net-awarethinkuknow or parentzone.