How to know if you’re being groomed online – spot the signs

As more and more young people access the internet using smartphones, laptops and tablet computers, it becomes harder for parents to monitor what their children are doing online. You might feel that you’re old enough to not need your parents checking up on you and want some privacy from what seems like prying eyes, but remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

As a result of the rise in ways we can contact each other online, it can be easier for potential abusers to groom their targets, contacting them using social networking sites like Facebook or by using apps like Whatsapp, Snapchat and Yik Yak.

Here are a few tips to help keep you safe when you’re surfing the web and to help you decide who’s really a friend and who might be after something more sinister.

They ask for personal information

If a stranger contacts you on social media site or on a smartphone app and starts asking you for your personal information straight away, it could be a sign that they don’t have the best intentions.

If you give them any information that they could use to identify you, like the name of your school, your phone number or your address, you might find that they just show up and try to meet you face to face. To stay safe, never give out any personal information to people you meet online as you can never be sure who they really are.


They ask you to keep your ‘relationship’ a secret

A lot of the time, people trying to groom you will ask you to keep your relationship with them a secret from your friends and family.

They do this because it makes them harder to trace and gives them more control over you. To keep yourself safe, always tell your parents or another trusted adult about the people you meet online, especially if you plan to meet them in person.

They tell you things that make you feel uncomfortable

To get the subject onto sex and begin the grooming process, some potential abusers will start telling you about their personal experiences or telling other stories that revolve around sex or sexuality.

Other people may start by asking you about your sexual experiences. Trying to find out if you’ve had any sexual partners or if you’re curious about sex is a way for them to get closer to you and start gaining your trust.

This may make you feel uncomfortable and could be an early sign that you should cut off contact and walk away.

They want to communicate with you secretly

In order to keep your relationship or friendship a secret, some people will ask you to call or text them when everyone else in the family is out or asleep. They might even offer to send you a phone so that that calls won’t show up on your bill and they can contact you whenever they want.

No matter how attractive a new phone may seem, never accept any gifts like this from people you meet online, and if they ask you to contact them secretly, tell someone you trust and delete their number. It’s much easier and safer to walk away before things get out of hand and you’ll thank yourself for doing so later in life.

Call our free, confidential phone line on 0808 800 1037 if you have any concerns about anything online or visit our website for more information about staying safe online.