Online Grooming

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Our top tips!

  • Try not to feel embarrassed

    This was not your fault. Groomers are master manipulators and are good at getting what they want. They betrayed your trust and you don’t deserve to be treated that way.

  • Look out for and take care of yourself
    Therapeutic services such as Hear and Now, In Ctrl, Letting the Future In, and Protect and Respect are available for children who have experienced grooming. It’s important to reach out to others as grooming can have a negative impact on mental health. 

  • Never talk to someone online unless you know them
    By ignoring or blocking messages from people you don’t know online, you will significantly reduce the risk of being groomed. Equally, if someone tells you to keep your conversation with them a secret, it’s important you inform an adult and block the person.

What is online grooming?

Online grooming is when someone builds an online relationship with a young person and manipulates them into doing something sexual like sexting. Grooming can happen on social networking sites, chat rooms, dating apps and instant messaging apps. They can target any age or any gender.

Not all groomers are strangers. Some groomers may exploit people with whom they already have a relationship: they could be a family friend, or someone you have met through social activities. Most will use social media to contact you so it’s important to understand how to stay safe when using it. Check out our other pages for information on how to stay safe online and understanding privacy settings.

Talking online with someone you don’t know can be dangerous since it can lead to online grooming. However, grooming doesn’t only happen online. Offline, grooming can take the form of domestic violence. You can find information about domestic violence, as well as advice, on our abuse information page.

Online grooming is often easier online than in person because true identities are far easier to hide this way. For example, someone may pretend to be much younger than they really are so that they can build a relationship with a young person more easily.

How can I spot online grooming?

Groomers start by building an emotional connection with someone to gain their trust before manipulating or blackmailing them into sexual activities. They may:

  • Keep sending you lots of messages in a range of different forms (such as texts, Facebook messages and emails).
  • Try to blackmail you by saying that they will be upset if you don’t do what they want. 
  • Get you to tell them secrets about yourself and then expose your privacy, such as by saying where you live and what school you go to.
  • Make you promise to keep your conversations secret, so they won’t be caught by parents, carers or teachers. They may even manipulate you into thinking the adults around you can’t be trusted.
  • Start sending sexual messages, such as asking if you are in a relationship, have ever been kissed or have ever had sex. As trust is gained, the content of the messages may become more obviously sexual – for example, they may start asking you for nude images.

What if I think I might be being groomed?

Stay calm

It’s really important that you remain calm if you feel you might be being groomed. Try not to show them that you are on to them, as they may up their game and try different tactics to manipulate you. Stay calm, talk to somebody and distance yourself from the person who is grooming.

Tell somebody

Telling somebody that you might be being groomed is really important. Online grooming is illegal – you should make sure you tell somebody so that the right action can be taken to stop any illegal activity. It is really important to make sure you are protected too!

Block them immediately

If you are certain that you are being groomed, make sure you block this person on any social media that you are connected to them on. This will stop them being able to contact you in any way. It might be worth collecting screenshots as evidence before you do this.

Review your privacy settings

Reviewing your privacy settings is really important. Make sure that your social media profiles are completely locked down, and that only people you accept can see any details on your profile. Also make sure that you are only accepting people that you know as friends.

I think I might need some help... what do I do?

If you think that you are being groomed online, or you know somebody that might be being groomed, it is really important that you tell someone immediately. Telling someone will help to ensure that you – or anyone you know who might be being groomed – remain safe!

Get support!
If you are in this situation, make sure that you reach out to somebody as soon as possible for your own protection.
Speak to us

Being groomed can be a very distressing situation. If you find yourself in any tricky situations and are struggling to cope with this, make sure you reach out to our caring mentors. Our friendly mentors can help you with your feelings but can also help you with reporting these activities.

Speak to the Police

Online grooming is an illegal activity, and is usually targeted towards children under 18. It is really important that any grooming activities are reported to the police with any evidence. CEOP is an organisation that can help with reporting these activities to the police.

Speak to an adult

If you think you might be being groomed, speak to an adult immediately. It is definitely worth speaking with your parents, but if you don’t feel comfortable discussing it with them, find an adult that you can trust; this could be a teacher, someone at a youth club. or another relative.

What should I do?

For some groomers, simply asking them to stop or blocking them can be enough to put a stop to the situation. However, if you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself or the grooming hasn’t stopped then reporting it to a trustworthy adult such as parents or a teacher is important. This may seem very scary or embarrassing but telling someone means they can help you.

If you feel you’re in immediate danger – for example, if someone has posted a picture of you online or has started stalking you  – then you should call 999 for help. If you’re under 18, the Internet Watch Foundation can remove an explicit photo of you from the Internet without having to get police involved.

If you feel comfortable, you can report what has happened directly to CEOP, who are responsible for keeping children and young people safe from sexual abuse and online grooming. If you wish to remain anonymous, you can contact Crimestoppers UK, who will not need to know your identity.