Online Grooming - What is it?

Online grooming is defined as:

"Actions deliberately undertaken with the aim of befriending and establishing an emotional connection with a child, in order to lower the child's inhibitions in preparation for sexual activity with the child"

From a child’s point of view, grooming can be a very difficult and confusing concept to grasp. Often they will not be able to understand what is happening or why it is a form of abuse, especially if the grooming has been taking place over a long period of time. This is because online grooming is a process; it involves building an emotional, seemingly trusting relationship with a young person, a relationship that can be established easily through social networking and gaming sites.

Offenders may pretend to share the young person’s interests and use flattery in order to make the child feel listened to and cared for. Young people can be fooled into thinking they are in a relationship with the abuser and that this means its ok. This can lead to sexual themes being introduced into the conversation as well as requests for more personal information and sexual pictures of themselves.

What are the signs?

Threats and Humiliation

Offenders are crafty. Using lines such as ‘Do your friends know what you’re really like?’ and ‘What would your parents say if they knew?’ can be indicators of threatening behaviour. The abuser may threaten to post the victims pictures online to instil fear and humiliate them or try to give the impression that they would be in trouble with their parents.

'A third of 9-19 year olds who go online at least once a week report having received unwanted sexual (31%) or nasty comments (33%)’ – Parent’s Protect

Promoting Isolation

The many stresses of school-life such as fall-outs out with friends, arguments with parents and underachieving at school can all contribute to feelings of isolation.  It can also however, make young people more susceptible to trusting online strangers. Offenders may encourage isolation by using phrases such as ‘You don’t need them’ and ‘You have got me, no one else matters’.

Sharing Information

Groomers want as much information as possible if their intention is to meet up with a young person. Young people need to be mindful of how easy it can be to give out personal information through every-day conversation. How much does the young person know about them? Does it sound truthful or are there things that just don’t add up?

Preventing Online Grooming

Keep the computer in a family room where everyone can see and use it.

Talk to children about the latest internet trends and what they have found out using the internet. What social networking sites do they use and why?

Encourage children to tell you about anything that makes them uncomfortable, for example has a stranger ever asked them to go on webcam?

Find out how to filter internet results and how to block/report content. Install ‘safe search’ engines such as Safe Search Kids and Kid Rex which are designed for kids to use, a bit like google.

Need to know terms:

PIR – acronym for ‘parent in room’

POS – acronym for ‘parent over shoulder’

Revenge porn – sexually explicit messages or images that have been shared without the consent of the individual concerned. 

Sexting – the sending of sexually explicit messages or pictures. 

Report it

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)

CEOP works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children both online and offline. They coordinate activity against these threats and pursue those who sexually exploit and abuse children.

CEOP actively encourages all organisations that have an online presence to adopt the CEOP ‘Report Abuse’ mechanism. It allows children and young people to report suspicious behaviour that is making them feel uncomfortable by a click of a button.

For more information or to report online abuse visit CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre)


ThinkuKnow: Risks children face online: Online grooming


NSPCC: Grooming, What is Grooming?

Inhope: Protecting Children Online

Netsafe: What is Online Grooming?

Parents Protect: What is Grooming?