What is online grooming?

Online grooming is a form of child sexual exploitation where someone builds an emotional connection with a child under the age of 18 to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.

Children and young people can be groomed online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone they know – for example a family member, friend or professional. Groomers may be male or female and belong to any age group.

An online groomer may attempt to gain the trust of their victims by using fake profile pictures, pretending to have similar interests, offering gifts and complementing the child.

Some may try to set up a meeting, or even blackmail children by threatening to publish the content online.

The exploitation may involve penetrative sexual acts, sexual touching, masturbation and the misuse of sexual images (on the internet or by mobile phone).

It is an offence for anyone to have any sexual activity with a person under the age of 16.