Online access allows children and young people across any internet-connected device, such as phones, tablets, and computers access to the internet. However, this also opens the door for online abuse.

It can happen anywhere online including:

  • Social media

  • Email

  • Chat rooms

  • Gaming online

  • Live streaming sites



Grooming can happen when someone creates a relationship with a young person or child so they can abuse them. Online grooming is increasingly common because access to young people and children is made easy by the world wide web and platforms such as social media sites and streaming services.


Currently, legislation and monitoring on these sites are still in their infancy so children and young people can be easily exposed to online groomers.


From a safeguarding point of view, sexting can mean a person forced or coerced to share sexual or naked images of themselves with others. People are pressured into creating or sending these images or videos which are posted and shared online. It is important to remember that this kind of abuse is not just done by adults, but also children and peers of the abusee.

Risks to people are:

  • Losing control of the images and how they are shared

  • Blackmail or bullying can be used on the person in the images/videos. This can cause stress and other forms of control can be used on the individual.



Bullying is unlike normal face to face bullying because it can take place online and can follow the person wherever they are including on their phone or social media platforms.

  • Bullying can now take place in the privacy of your home without you knowing

  • Bullying is behaviour that hurts someone else which isn’t necessarily physical and often isn’t

  • Cyberbullying can include sending threatening or abusive messages, creating and sharing embarrassing videos or images, exclusion from online games and activities

  • Shaming someone online

  • Voting about someone in an abusive online poll

  • Sexting



Emotional abuse involves continual emotional mistreatment offline and online. It is a pattern of behaviour where someone repeatedly and deliberately harms another's mental health and wellbeing through nonphysical actions. It is more difficult to spot compared to physical abuse because it is not always obvious at first sight and can be easily hidden.

There are signs of emotional abuse to look out for:

  • The abuser is overly critical - this can damage your mental self-esteem which affects your confidence and life chances

  • Intentional humiliation - In public and private, emotional abusers will intentionally humiliate you, damaging your self-esteem and confidence. Over time this will damage your life opportunities, other relationships and mental health. This is used to control you and make you stay with the abuser

  • Intimidation - You will fear the consequences of arguing or disagreeing with your abuser. This could be physical harm but also shouting or arguing. Intimidation as with humiliation is used to control you

  • Isolation - A lot of emotional abusers will try to isolate you from your other friends and family. This is done to restrict others from noticing your abuse and questioning what is happening. You might notice a person’s friends do not talk to the person anymore or stories have been told to make the abusee feel their friends or family are against them


Sexual exploitation is when someone is persuaded or forced to create sexually explicit photos or videos online. This includes having sexual conversations when the person is pressured or forced.


Image by Sergey Zolkin

Although legislation is a useful tool to support prosecution and monitoring of social media and all online platforms, it is also important to promote and reinforce a culture where this behaviour is unacceptable.

It has always been an argument that in the past this behaviour was acceptable because attitudes and ideas were different from the past, but in reality, this kind of behaviour has never been acceptable.

Changing attitudes and preventing this behaviour from being normalised is the key to change.

In Ofsted’s recent report, girls described sending or asking someone to send sexual images as ‘acceptable’. They also highlighted that 80% of girls and almost 40% of boys said they knew of incidents of any kind of sexual assault.

How do we change the culture and perceptions of “acceptable” behaviour?


Training - seeing training for online abuse as vital and important, rather than “piecemeal”

Mentoring - supporting people including children to realise this is unacceptable behaviour and not just part of society


Support groups - creating channels where people can talk about experiences and realise this is unacceptable


Safeguarding training - raising awareness via safeguarding  training


Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RS) teaching to be taken seriously and not just an additional part of the curriculum


Routine record-keeping and analysis of sexual harassment and sexual violence, including online, to identify patterns and intervene early to prevent abuse


Awareness of technology - to increase awareness of online abuse it is important to become aware of ways in which abuse can happen. Therefore it is important to have an understanding of new technology and social platforms such as social media



Online abuse is sometimes more difficult to see than more physical abuse but there are recognisable early signs of peer-on-peer sexual abuse to look out for:

  • absence from school or disengagement from activities

  • physical injuries

  • mental or emotional health issues

  • becoming withdrawn – lack of self-esteem

  • lack of sleep

  • alcohol or substance misuse

  • changes in behaviour

  • inappropriate behaviour for age

  • abusive towards others


As well as attending training and being aware of signs of abuse both offline and online, what else can you do? As with any safeguarding issues, it is important to report any concerns you have.

At GLP Training you should approach a member of the Safeguarding team including the lead Safeguarding contact:

Harvey Parsons

01905 670889

You can also use the Safeguarding Disclosure form found here.


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