How To Help Yourself and Others


Protect yourself online!

Only talk to people online that you actually know. Watch out for warning signs of grooming on line. If something feels wrong then make an adult that you know and trust aware of your concerns. Never give out your personal details online or share any kind of images. Never agree to meet someone you have met online. See our list of online app’s that you should be aware of to protect yourself from online grooming.

Stay safe. Protect yourself offline!

Don’t trust people at face value even if they come across as friendly. Sometimes we have to be wary of other people’s intentions to look after ourselves. Always ask yourself what are other people’s motivations to you. Are they saying or doing something because they are genuine or is it for another reason? Talk to someone you trust, especially an adult such as a teacher, if you’re worried about someone’s intentions towards you or your friends.

Get involved in something positive!

If you’re involved in positive activities, hobbies or youth groups and clubs then this is a great way to have real trusting friends and be close to people who will look out for you. Also, it’s a great way to learn from others and develop your own skills and understand more about yourself. These are all protective factors for children and young people as they grow into young adults.  

Don't be tricked, forced or made to feel scared into doing something you don't want to do!

If something feels wrong then trust your instincts. If you’re worried about any sort of situation then speak to parents or carers, a youth worker, a teacher or a social worker about your concerns.

There are services and people that can help.

If you’re worried and need to talk to someone about exploitation then there are people who can help. It’s important to understand that the person you trust with your worries may need to tell others in order to help protect you or someone else.

Who Else Can Help?

If you’re a young person and need help, information advice or support concerning ‘Child Exploitation’ or related issues then support and help is available from:



What is child exploitation?

Child Exploitation is when someone asks or uses you to do something you do not want to do or feel uncomfortable with. As far as child exploitation is concerned this tends to be something of a sexual nature or committing a criminal offence…

The 'Grooming' process!

Those who exploit children and young people use many different ways to develop their control of another person. Often exploiters will look for vulnerabilities in their victims such as age or isolation and using the internet is a common way of sexually grooming young people. There is no length of time this process takes in abusers gaining control over another person. At times exploiters will work hard to trick or use ways to gain the trust of their victims. However, in other circumstances victims are controlled very quickly when threats of violence or intimidation may be used.

Exploitation process persuading methods include:
  • Offering free gifts including, money, clothes, mobile phones, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, bicycles, and food.
  • Offering affection or offering friendship or being their mate to gain trust.
  • Offering protection or safety, a place to stay or somewhere to sleep.
  • Paying off debts.
  • Providing lifts in cars.
  • Deceiving someone to send naked or indecent pictures of themselves but telling their victims not to worry about this.
  • The exploiter/perpetrator claims that the relationship they have is genuine or real and/or loving. This may be just one way of gaining trust as well as deterring others who maybe suspicious.

How much of a problem is online grooming?

Last year (2016) Barnardo’s carried out a survey with 5 of their exploitation services across the UK. This survey revealed that in the six months previous 702 children had been supported because of exploitation with 297 (42%) of these children being groomed online.
Two thirds of these young people (186) who were groomed online met the person who had been grooming them and was then sexually exploited. The survey also showed that 146 young people had been sexually exploited by more than one person. Figures show the majority of these children were aged between 14 and 17 years with some as young as 10 years old.

There is no stereotypical victim of exploitation!

Exploitation can happen to anyone. It doesn’t matter what your background is. Exploiters will target anyone they see vulnerable regardless of their sexuality, age, or whether they are a boy or girl.  Younger children are equally at risk as older young people of being exploited sexually or criminally.

There are some factors that make you more vulnerable to exploitation especially if you’re mixing with people you don’t know or trust. If you have never been in trouble with the police some exploiters see this as an advantage as you may not stand out to the police if you were being asked to take part in a crime. If you’re not in the presence of people who care for you, for example, those absent or missing from home or online and away from parents.

It's About Control

The methods exploiters use to keep control of those they are abusing are very unpleasant. The fact they are unpleasant are the reason why some children and young people continue to be exploited even though they want to break free of their abusers.

Some of the ways exploiters keep control and continue abusing their victims include:

Using social media to control a person through threats of sharing sexual images of their victim or made up stories that will affect them or their families.

Telling their victims they will tell people including their friends and families what they have been doing if they don’t continue to do what they are being asked.

Telling their victims they will spread rumours about you.

Threatening their victims with violence if someone doesn’t do what is asked of them. This can often be directed at friends and family usually younger children such as brothers and sisters or older relatives such as grandparents.

Threatening their victims that they will tell others they are providing the police with information keeping them scared of retaliation or being labelled a ‘grass’.

Telling their victims they will finish with them as they may have been tricked into believing that the person is their boyfriend or girlfriend.  

Pretending to be friends but with the intention of using them for another purpose that is likely to expose them to risk of harm.

Child Exploitation Myths

Check out some of the most common Myths that we hear from young people - and what the actual TRUTH is...


Only girls are sexually exploited!

Although trends may show that girls maybe more likely to be victims of sexual exploitation and boys more likely to be criminally exploited this does not mean this is always the case. In 2016 a Barnardo’s exploitation services survey found that 30 males had been groomed online from 297 victims. Also despite boys generally falling foul of criminal exploitation girls have also been victims.

It's impossible to get out once you're involved!

This is not true at all. Children and young people who have been victims of exploitation are able to find help and support from professional services such as the police, teachers, social workers, youth workers as well as the people who love and care for them most. There are many dedicated services whose purpose is to deal with stopping child exploitation and protecting victims from harm. See our “Ways to Help” section for further information and advice.

Abusers are older males!

Exploiters can be older males but not always. In many situations, young people are victims of exploitation from their own age groups or gender. As mentioned in our facts young people can be tricked into believing young people their own age are their friends or boyfriend/girlfriend when actually this is a ploy to gain trust before exploiting and abusing them.

I'll get into trouble if I say anything or it's my fault!

Manipulating children into not saying anything is one of the ways exploiters keep control of their victims. Young people will be made to believe that if they come forward for help this will mean they will only end up in more serious trouble or face the threat of their abusers sending information about them to make their situation worse.

Services want children and young people to speak out in order to protect them from further abuse and to stop exploiters continuing to abuse and commit a crime against children.

It's normal

I’m just doing what the others are doing! Always ask yourself is it normal or okay what others are asking you to do? Creating the sense of things being ‘normal’ draws young people into being vulnerable to exploitation as it can create an illusion that what they are doing is allowed and ok to fit in and be part of the group.

This could be a group of males trying to get younger males to look after drugs or take part in a crime or suggesting that doing something criminal would be fun or a ‘buzz’.  

It could also be at a party where young people are being encouraged to do something sexual to fit in with other young people present. Again it could be boyfriend or girlfriend asking the other to do something they do not want to do to prove they love them.