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Child abuse

Online abuse

Online abuse is any type of abuse that happens on the internet, through social media, online gaming or mobile phones. Children and young people may be the victims of online grooming, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or emotional abuse. They also may be exposed to sexting, online misrepresentation and cyberbullying.

Find out more about keeping children safe online.


Sexting is where people share sexual images via text message or through messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Snapchat. It is illegal for anyone to post an indecent or nude picture online of someone under 18. These images can be reported to the Internet Watch Foundation. Find out more about sexting from Childline.

Online misrepresentation

Online misrepresentation, popularly known as ‘catfishing’, is when someone pretends to be someone else to befriend people online. Often, people use pictures of people that are younger than themselves or of the opposite sex on social media accounts and chat rooms. These relationships can become romantic and sometimes lead to emotional or sexual abuse.


Bullying that occurs on social media, online gaming or via mobile phones is called cyberbullying. It can be more harmful than other forms of bullying as it can occur day or night. It is sometimes harder to trace the bully online.

Children and young people can be at risk of online abuse from people they know, as well as strangers. They may or may not be experiencing abuse in the real world as well.

Find out more about cyberbullying.


Getting help


Offers advice about what to do if you think a child is being abused online and guidance about online grooming and cyberbullying. The Share Aware campaign includes resources and videos for parents and children about how to stay safe and the risks of sharing images online.

0808 800 5000


Lots of information and resources for children and young people about how to stay safe online and when using mobile phones. Children and young people aged under 19 can call the confidential 24 hour helpline or chat online with a counsellor.

0800 1111

Internet Matters

Helping parents to find out more about what their children might be doing online with simple, practical and easy advice. Includes age specific advice and further guidance on topics such as online grooming and radicalisation.

If you are concerned that a child is being abused, or to request support, you can:

Call 0345 155 1071

Complete the request for support online form

If it’s an emergency call 999