Anyone can experience grooming, and it can have a big effect on you if it’s happened. Find out more about what it is, and what to do if you’re worried.

What is grooming?

Grooming is when someone builds your trust and makes a connection with you to get you to do something sexual or illegal. Grooming can happen to anyone, and it is never your fault.

Someone could be groomed by someone they know, by a stranger or by a person they met online. That person could be older, the same age, or even someone who's in a position of authority over you, like a teacher or sports coach.

Because grooming involves using trust against people, it can be hard to recognise when it’s happening. If you’re worried about someone’s behaviour or something that’s happened to you, you can talk to us.

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Coping after grooming

Experiencing grooming or being pressured into doing something isn’t your fault. And you don’t have to cope with it alone.

Even if something doesn’t involve grooming, it’s okay to get support if you’ve been hurt or made to feel uncomfortable.

Whatever’s happening, there are things you can do:

Signs of grooming

Building relationships with people online or in other parts of your life is natural, grooming is when someone uses those relationships to trick, force or manipulate someone into doing something sexual or illegal.

Grooming isn’t always easy to recognise, but whatever’s happening it can help to talk to us about it.

Grooming can involve:

  • Asking you to keep things secret
    This could include being told not to tell anyone, that it’s special between you two or that other people won’t understand. You might be asked to keep it secret to show you trust them. If this is happening, it can help to talk to us.
  • Trying to find out things about you
    Someone might ask you which room you’re in and whether anyone else can see your device. This is to stop anyone who might want to help you from finding out.
  • Sending you sexual messages or images
    This might be small at first, like asking you whether you’ve ever kissed anyone or saying how much they like your body. Someone might share images with you and ask you to share them back.
  • Giving you gifts or compliments
    Giving gifts or making you feel good can be a way to make you feel like you owe them and can make it harder to resist when they ask you to do something sexual or illegal.
  • Making you feel isolated
    Saying that you can’t trust other people or stopping you from telling anyone else can make it harder for you to get support. People do this because they know other people will help you. If you’re feeling alone with something, you can always talk to us.
  • Threatening you
    If someone’s gotten you to share something about yourself or do something, sometimes they might threaten to tell other people about what’s happened. It’s important to remember that this is abusive, and it’s never okay.
  • Things are too good to be true
    People who groom others will try to meet their needs as a way to get what they want. Even if someone’s making you feel good at times, it’s important to get support if they’re asking you to do something sexual or illegal.


Online Grooming

Connecting with other people is natural when you’re spending time online. It can be easy to meet new people, but it’s not always as easy to tell when someone is trying to trick or persuade you to do things.

Grooming can happen anywhere you meet people online, including:

  • social media and messaging apps
  • dating sites
  • video and group chat apps
  • online games

Remember that the photos, videos and even text someone else sends to you might not always be real, it could have been stolen from someone else or faked using AI tools. Nobody has the right to pressure you or make you feel like you should do something you wouldn’t do normally.

Sites where you can meet people online aren’t always designed for young people, especially things like dating apps. It can help to think about ways you can stay safe online, and what to do if things you’re not expecting happen.

Worrying about someone else

If someone’s being groomed or hurt, they might:

  • keep secrets, or lie about what’s happened
  • feel scared to talk about things, or avoid talking about it
  • suddenly have money, or new things like clothes or phones that they can’t explain
  • suddenly change, or avoid spending time with other people

Lots of things can make someone change suddenly, but if you’re worried then it’s okay to ask for support.

It can help to share what’s making you worried with the person you know, or to get help from an adult you trust.

You can talk to us about anything that’s happening, even if it’s about someone else. Childline is confidential, and you can find out more about that here.