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Online grooming

Are you being harmed or at risk of being harmed?

If you feel at immediate risk of harm, or you are being harmed, you should call the police on 999.

If you are feeling unsafe you can call Wirral Council’s Central Advice and Duty Team on 0151 606 2008 (open 9.00am-5.00pm)

Outside of these hours please phone the Emergency Duty Team on 0151 677 6557

What is online grooming?

Grooming is when someone builds an online relationship with a young person and tricks them or forces them to do something sexual. This might include trying to meet up with the young person. People who do this often lie about who they really are.

Often a 'groomer' is older, but they could also be a young person. They could be male or female, and either a stranger or someone the young person knows. A groomer may try to make a young person do things like:

  • send naked images of themselves, which is sometimes called sexting
  • send sexual videos of themselves
  • do something sexual via webcam or online
  • have sexual conversations online or by text messages
  • meet up with them in person.

A groomer might say that they will post images or videos like this online, or send copies of conversations to the young person's friends and family unless they take part in sexual activity.

How and where can online grooming happen?

Online grooming can happen on lots of different places. For example:

  • social networking websites
  • instant messaging apps
  • photo sharing apps and sites, like Instagram
  • chat rooms
  • dating apps
  • online gaming sites

Children may not speak out because they are:

  • ashamed
  • feeling guilty
  • unaware that they're being abused
  • believe they are in a relationship with a ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’.

What to do if you think you are being groomed online:

If someone is making you feel weird or asking you to send them sexual images, you can report them to CEOP, which is the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre. CEOP protects children from harm online and brings offenders into account.

If someone has acted inappropriately towards you or to someone you know – such as sexual chat or asking you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable – click here to report it to CEOP.

Alternatively, you can talk to a ChildLine counsellor if you think you have experienced online grooming or you are unsure. They won’t judge you and can help you work out what you can do next.

You can call ChildLine on 0800 11 11.

You can also talk to your parents, your teacher, doctor or youth worker. Don’t be afraid to speak out – there is lots of support out there to help you.

Visit the Wirral Safeguarding Children Board website

Source: Childline and NSPCC