Online grooming

You meet someone on Instagram. They’re a ‘friend of a friend’. They comment on your pictures and post some funny YouTube clips. You chat. They ask if you’re on Whatsapp or Snapchat?

What now?

Some people who contact you online genuinely just want to chat or be friends.

But unfortunately some people use the internet to look for sex and target young people. They may want to trick, pressure or force young people into sex. This is called ‘grooming’.

Online they can pretend to be something they’re not – a friend, a mentor, a boyfriend or girlfriend. They can even pretend to be a completely different person. They can lie about who they are and what they want.

This means it is not always easy to tell the difference between someone genuine and someone dangerous.

Online grooming

Gamer TycerX explains how to spot the signs of online grooming and what to do if you're worried it might be happening to you. 

Spot the signs

If you talk to new people  online it’s important to be careful, to trust your instincts and know what to do if things go wrong. Here are a few warning signs:

  • Too good to be true?

    Do they seem to share all of your interests, agree with everything you say, and pay you lots of attention and compliments? Are things moving really fast? Some abusers will do everything they can to make you feel special in order to try and gain your trust. If they ask you to do anything you’re not comfortable with you can always say no, seek help from an adult or contact us at CEOP.

  • Flattery.

    Do they lavish praise on your pictures, saying you’re fit or sexy? Some abusers work hard to make you feel special, as it’s harder to think critically if someone’s praising you and making you feel good.

  • Let’s talk about sex.

    Abusers often try to get young people to talk about sex, sometimes really quickly. Most of us feel less shy online than in real life so talking about sex can be easier. But be cautious if someone is very flirty or tries to get you to talk about sex online. You don’t have to say or do anything you’re not comfortable with. Remember – it is against the law for an adult to have sex with anyone under 16.  It is also illegal for someone to put pressure on an under 18 to send sexual photos of themselves.

  • Got any sexy pictures?

    They might ask for sexy pictures and tell you that other young people send them. Remember, if they’re asking you to send naked or sexual photos of yourself they are breaking the law. If this has happened, don’t panic, they will get into trouble and not you. Tell an adult you trust what has happened, or report to CEOP, where a specialist child protection adviser will support you.

  • Can we go somewhere more private?

    Did you meet in a public place like a game, or on social media where other people can see your comments? Have they asked to add you on Snapchat, Whatsapp or another private chat service? Abusers often want to move to more private spaces online, as these are less monitored and they think they are less likely to be caught. For this reason it’s safer to keep to public spaces with all but your most trusted friends.

  • Our little secret?

    Abusers don’t want other people to know they’re chatting to you. They might ask you to keep your chat a secret or say you’ll be in trouble if anyone else find out. If someone is making you do things you don’t want to do or aren’t comfortable with, it’s not your fault, and you will never be blamed. You do not need to keep their secret – it is better if you can tell someone and get help. Tell an adult you trust, phone Childline or contact us at CEOP.

  • Mood swings

    Some abusers try to control young people by switching between being kind and nasty – or saying they are very upset about something. They might do this to try to make a young person feel like they need to do something they are not comfortable with. No one deserves to be treated like this. If this is happening to you or someone you know, tell an adult you trust, speak to Childline, or report to CEOP.

  • "My camera's broken."

    Some abusers pretend to be a boy or a girl around your age and claim their camera is broken so you can’t see them. If they say their camera’s broken, this should raise suspicion. Even if you can see someone on camera, be aware that it is still possible that the video you saw was fake. Some abusers can be very technically savy and use recordings to trick young people. If you think this has happened to you or someone you know, report to CEOP and tell an adult you trust.

Are you worried about someone you’ve met online?

Have you met someone online and you’re not sure they are who they say they are? Or you’ve started an online relationship and they’re trying to take things further by showing you porn, asking you to send them naked selfies or do sexual stuff on cam? Maybe they’re pressuring you to meet up with them?

If you’re worried you should tell an adult you trust, like a parent, carer, teacher or youth worker. They will support you and get you the help that you need.


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 camera
  • 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, report to CEOP.


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
  • 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 to speak to a counsellor online.