For confidential information and advice contact the Stop it Now! helpline on

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If you want to ask a question or talk through any issues or concerns, call the Stop it Now! confidential, freephone helpline on 0808 1000 900.

The helpline is available from 9am-9pm Monday to Thursday and 9am-5pm Fridays. Alternatively you can contact us for help and advice via email at this address:, with a response in 48 hours.

Emails received at this address are anonymised to preserve confidentiality, but please do not include details such as telephone numbers as this would be classified as identifying information. Please see our confidentiality policy below.

Also note that emails may not be replied to immediately due to high demand for the service. We aim to respond to all emails within 3-5 working days. If you are looking for immediate help, please contact the Helpline by phone.

Please read the Stop it Now!
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What is Grooming?

Did You Know?

1/3 of 9-19 year olds who go online at least once a week report having received unwanted sexual (31%) or nasty (33%) comments via e-mail, chat, IM (instant messenger) or text message. Only 7% of parents/carers think their child have received such comments.*

*Livingstone, S., & Bober, M. (2005). UK children go online. London: London School of Economics.

Grooming is a word used to describe how people who want to sexually harm children and young people get close to them, and often their families, and gain their trust. Grooming in the real world can take place in all kinds of places – in the home or local neighbourhood, the child’s school, youth and sports clubs or the church.

Online grooming may occur by people forming relationships with children and pretending to be their friend. They do this by finding out information about their potential victim and trying to establish the likelihood of the child telling. They try to find out as much as they can about the child’s family and social networks and, if they think it is ‘safe enough’, will then try to isolate their victim and may use flattery and promises of gifts, or threats and intimidation in order to achieve some control.

It is easy for ‘groomers’ to find child victims online. They generally use chatrooms which are focussed around young people’s interests. They often pretend to be younger and may even change their gender. Many give a false physical description of themselves which may bear no resemblance to their real appearance – some send pictures of other people, pretending that it is them. Groomers may also seek out potential victims by looking through personal websites such as social networking sites.

How is the grooming of children different online?

In many circumstances, grooming online is faster and anonymous and results in children trusting an online ‘friend’ more quickly than someone they had just met ‘face to face’. Those intent on sexually harming children can easily access information about them and they are able to hide their true identity, age and gender. People who groom children may not be restricted by time or accessibility to a child as they would be in the ‘real world’. 

Keep your children safe online

Teach your children the five key Childnet SMART rules which remind young people to be SMART online. You should go through these tips with your children.

S – SAFE Keep safe by being careful not to give out personal information – such as your name, email, phone number, home address, or school name – to people who you don’t know online.

M – MEETING Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous. Only do so with your parents’/carers’ permissions & when they can be present.

A – ACCEPTING Accepting e-mails, IM messages or opening files from people you don’t know or trust can be dangerous – they may contain viruses or nasty messages.

R – RELIABLE Someone online may be lying about who they are, and information you find on the internet may not be reliable.

T – TELL Your parent, carer or a trusted adult if someone or something makes you feel uncomfortable or worried.

Positives and negatives of the internet

Find out more about the benefits and risks for children and young people when using the Internet from our awareness videos. Website Design & eCommerce Software Shopping Cart Solutions