Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation. Children and young people can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional. Groomers may be male or female. They could be any age. Many children and young people don't understand that they have been groomed, or that what has happened is abuse.

Once they have established trust, groomers will exploit the relationship by isolating the child from friends or family and making the child feel dependent on them. They will use any means of power or control to make a child believe they have no choice but to do what they want. Groomers may introduce 'secrets' as a way to control or frighten the child. Sometimes they will blackmail the child, or make them feel ashamed or guilty, to stop them telling anyone about the abuse.

Groomers can use social media sites, instant messaging apps including teen dating apps, or online gaming platforms to connect with a young person or child. They can spend time learning about a young person’s interests from their online profiles and then use this knowledge to help them build up a relationship. It’s easy for groomers to hide their identity online - they may pretend to be a child and then chat and become ‘friends’ with children they are targeting.

Groomers may look for:

  • Usernames or comments that are flirtatious or have a sexual meaning
  • Public comments that suggest a child has low self-esteem or is vulnerable

Groomers don’t always target a particular child. Sometimes they will send messages to hundreds of young people and wait to see who responds. Groomers no longer need to meet children in real life to abuse them. Increasingly, groomers are sexually exploiting their victims by persuading them to take part in online sexual activity.


Grooming happens both online and in person. Groomers will hide their true intentions and may spend a long time gaining a child's trust. They may also try to gain the trust of the whole family so they can be alone with the child.

Groomers do this by:

  • Pretending to be someone they are not, for example saying they are the same age online
  • Offering advice or understanding
  • Buying gifts
  • Giving the child attention
  • Using their professional position or reputation
  • Taking them on trips, outings or holidays

You may notice that your friend has started to act differently - perhaps they are no longer interested in the things they used to enjoy, perhaps they don't want to spend time with you as they did before, perhaps your gut instinct just tells you something doesn't feel right.

Perhaps as a parent you have noticed that they hide their online activity (not willing to share passwords and pausing the game whenever an adult enters the room). They may also be reluctant to provide details about the specific people they are speaking to online (eg which school they go to, their last name, where they live).


Read the BBC news story article - Breck Bednar, a 14-year old school boy who was lured to his death after being groomed by an online predator Lewis Daynes

In memory of Breck his family set up the Breck foundation which has a range of resources for parents and young people

Parents and young people can also visit THINK YOU KNOW

If you have any concerns regarding a friend or family member report your concerns on CEOP


  • Grooming isn’t always overtly sexual
  • Grooming is about control of others
  • Grooming can happen to both girls and boys
  • Forbidding usage of social media can have a negative impact and force activity to be done in secret
  • Share concerns with professionals- don’t keep it to yourself
  • If concerns continue keep a log of date, time and the incident

Check the age certificate of games and decide whether your child is mature enough to access the content

If you are concerned in any way contact CEOP or the police.

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