What to do if your child is groomed online

CEOP documentary

Advice from CEOP Command on how you can help your child if they have been groomed online

Part of the role of CEOP Command is to investigate online blackmail and the sexual abuse of boys by offenders using fake social media profiles. By reporting such incidents, law enforcement agencies can hopefully identify and support victims and perpetrators can be arrested and convicted.

All the victims who were known to CEOP Command have been identified and given help and support, but because the offending took place online, there may well be other victims out there. Having watched the programme, it’s possible that some viewers may realise that they have also been victims of such offences and will be prompted to talk to someone about the abuse they have suffered.

What you can do

If a young person you know tells you they think they may have been approached by an adult online who tried to force them to share sexual images or take part in sexual activity – or just someone who made them feel uncomfortable – here’s what you can do to help them:

  • Listen to what they say, allowing them time to explain in their own words what’s happened.
  • Reassure them that they can say anything to you. Encourage them to write it down, or even text you, if they find it hard to say it out loud.
  • If you’re concerned they may have been a victim of abuse or are being groomed online, contact CEOP using the ‘Report Abuse’ button here.
  • Let them know it’s not their fault, that they have done nothing wrong, and that nobody will think any the worse of them for what has happened.
  • Read our full article on what to do if you discover your child has been sexually abused. This covers offline abuse, as well as abuse online.

Tips for staying safe when chatting online

Most people who children chat to online will be other children. But there are adults out there who pretend to be young people online in order to form abusive relationships with children.

They will flatter the young person they are trying to befriend and attempt to gain their confidence. They might pretend to be a boy or girl around their age.

Once friendship is established, they will try to convince the young person that it’s OK to talk to them about sex. They may then ask them to send naked pictures (sometimes referred to as ‘nudes’ or ‘nude selfies’) or to take off their clothes on webcam.

Once they have an image or video of the child, they can then use it to blackmail them into further sexual activity online, or even to meet in the real world. They will persuade the young person that doing what they tell them is better than being found out.

As a parent, try having a conversation with your child about the danger of meeting adults posing as children online. A good way in is to say you have read about it and ask them if they know if any of their friends have ever experienced anything like that.

Further resources

Suggest they read CEOP’s advice on staying safe on webcams. It’s aimed at young people themselves and full of useful information on how to spot if they are being groomed or exploited online.

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