Worried your friend has met someone dodgy online?

Has your friend met someone new online? Are you worried they might not be who they say they are?

There are some weirdos out there so if your friend has got a new boyfriend or girlfriend they only know online you’re right to be concerned.

Perhaps it seems like they’re not telling you everything. Or are things moving really fast? Maybe their new friend seems too good to be true?

It can be really hard to tell the difference between someone genuine and a fake online but if your friend is chatting to someone who is trying to abuse them here are some warning signs.

5 warning signs

  1. Have they suddenly become very secretive?

    Have they stopped showing you their text messages or social profile? People who abuse will try to stop young people telling their friends and family about their relationship.

  2. Are they distant?

    There are lots of reasons why this might happen but if your close friend has become distant this could be a sign someone is trying to control them.

  3. Have they mentioned someone older?

    There are adults who use the internet to try to have sex with young people. They can be very clever at convincing a young person that they are in a relationship. Remember, sex and relationships between young people and adults can be very harmful

  4. Are they sad or withdrawn but won’t say why?

    If something is going on with your friend online it might be really upsetting them. They might feel trapped, like they can’t talk about it. Let them know you’re there to listen.

  5. Are they unable to switch off from their phone or social media?

    Lots of us find it hard not to check our phone or the internet but if your friend gets worried or stressed when they can’t, this can be a sign someone is controlling them.

How to help

  • Listen, don’t judge.

    If your friend opens up to you, listen to what they have to say and how they feel. Make sure they know that you’re there for them if anything goes wrong. Tell them that you will need to tell an adult if you think they’re in danger.

  • Think you know?

    Make sure your friend understands the risks of chatting to people you meet online. Talk to them about how easy it is to lie online and why relationships with people much older are a bad idea.

  • Show them how to get help.

    If things do go wrong your friend can always report to CEOP. Whatever has happened CEOP will understand. They will be able to help and your friend won’t be in trouble. Show them how to make a report and encourage them to add the CEOP website to their favourites.

  • Tell an adult you trust.

    If you think your friend is in danger you should always tell an adult you trust, phone the police on 999 or report to CEOP. Even if they’ve asked you not to tell anyone – you should never keep a secret if it could put your friend in danger.

Organisations who can help

Talk to someone


Childline is a free helpline for children and young people. You can contact Childline about anything. No problem is too big or too small. Whatever your worry, it's better out than in.

Childline is a private and confidential service. Confidential means not telling anyone else what you’ve said. This means that whatever you say stays between you and Childline.

They would only need to tell someone else if:

  • You ask them to do so
  • They believe your life or someone else’s life is in immediate danger
  • You are being hurt by someone in a position of trust who has access to other children like a teacher or police officer
  • You tell them that you are seriously harming another young person

Call them on 0800 1111. The number won’t appear on your phone bill.

You can also visit www.childline.org.uk to speak to a counsellor online.

Report it


CEOP helps young people who are being sexually abused or are worried that someone they’ve met is trying to abuse them.

If you’ve met someone online, or face to face, and they are putting you under pressure to have sex or making you feel uncomfortable you should report to CEOP.

This might be someone:

  • Making you have sex when you donʼt want to
  • Chatting about sex online
  • Asking you to meet up face to face if youʼve only met them online
  • Asking you to do sexual things on webcam
  • Asking for sexual pictures of you
  • Making you feel worried, anxious or unsafe

If this is happening to you, or you’re worried that it might be, you can report this to CEOP.