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Online Grooming and Online Blackmail

Being online and making friends should be fun. However, not everyone is honest about who they really are so it’s important to know what to do if someone or something makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Grooming is when someone builds your trust and makes a connection with you to get you to do something sexual and/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. It could be someone that you thought was your partner or friend. 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.

It can be hard to recognise because groomers might seem friendly, fun and have the same interests as you. Often they will give you lots of attention, flirt and say they fancy you. Once they have your trust, they may trick, pressure or guilt you into sharing intimate sexual content – such as messages, nudes or videos. This is wrong. 

Here are some things that groomers might do online:

Online blackmail

If someone is threatening to share nudes or sexual images or videos of you and wants you to pay money to stop, then this is blackmail.

It is a crime to blackmail or threaten you in this way, and it’s wrong and can be very worrying. This type of behavior can be called ‘sextortion’ and it is more common among young people than you think.

You are not alone. You are not to blame. You are not in trouble. You will be believed. You will be supported.

Everyone deserves to feel safe online and offline, to have privacy, to have healthy boundaries, to feel in control and to have the freedom to make choices. If someone or something is making you feel uncomfortable or unsafe, even if you’re not sure, then it’s important to talk about it.

Whatever is happening then there is always something you can do.

Talk to someone you trust and focus on your wellbeing.

It doesn’t matter what you have done or shared – help is available. If your situation becomes more difficult or unmanageable contact your GP. If you’re not ready, then you can always get advice and support from a helpline.

Report it to the police.

It might feel embarrassing or scary, but police officers are trained to deal with these types of situations and the matter will be dealt with sensitively and they can support you.

Don’t respond to demands and never pay money

Keep evidence.

Keep a record of what has been happing. Take screenshots and save messages. This will help you to prove what has been happening when reporting.

Stop all communication.

Make your social media accounts private and reset your passwords. Block and report it to the app or platform.

Get Support

Police Service of Northern Ireland

If someone or something is making you feel scared, threatened or distressed, report it to the police by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency.

Trusted Adults or Your GP

If you are worried or concerned about something, please make sure you speak to an adult you trust. If your situation becomes more difficult or unmanageable please contact your GP.


If you are worried about online abuse or the way someone has been communicating online.

Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline

For anyone over 16 who is experiencing domestic or sexual violence and abuse, you can call 0800 802 1414 for free and or visit the website.


If you are in distress or despair and need someone to talk to, you can call lifeline free on 0808 808 8000, or visit the website.


If you require help and support in confidence, you can call Childline free on 0800 1111, or visit the website.

Learn More

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Childline | The Group Chat | Bullying | I Got You
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