Online sexual abuse is on the increase and it's not ok.

An increasing number of children are being sexually abused over webcam or live streaming platforms. This can be just as harmful as 'contact' sexual abuse. Ensure your children know they can get help at any time and find out what you can do to support them.

Concerned about a child/young person?

If you're worried about your child and think something is not quite right, it's best to be on the safe side and find out more.

Information & Advice:

Sexual abuse on webcam and live streaming.

The CEOP team have seen an increase in cases of sexual abuse which takes place solely online, where in these cases the children involved never met the offender face to face and all of the abuse took place over the internet - whether that be via images, webcam or live streaming.

Why does this happen?

Though the ways they do it vary, the basic tactic used by offenders is to trick or persuade a young person to share a sexual image, strip or perform sexual acts on webcam or live streaming platforms.

They might do this by grooming the child, building a relationship with the in which the child feels love or a sense of obligation to the offender. They might pretend to be the same age as the child, flirting with them and asking them to engage in sexual acts. In some cases they will use information which the young person has shared, for example personal problems or family difficulties, as leverage to get the young person to go on webcam or share a sexual image.

Once they have an image or video they will then use it to blackmail them, telling the child that if they don't do what they say they will share the image or video online.

Children then feel trapped, forced to do whatever the offender wants or face the embarrassment of family or friends seeing them naked or engaging in sexual acts.

This can start a cycle of abuse with offenders making increasing demands for the children to appear on video and perform sexual acts. In some cases they have been forced to physically hurt themselves or involve other children.

What's the impact of online sexual abuse?

Even though the children involved may never meet the offender face to face, this is sexual abuse.

Children forced, tricked or persuaded to participate in the abuse, for example by performing sexual acts on themselves, may be left with long term trauma from the experience and can suffer just as much harm as those who are abused by an offender in the 'real' world.

The existence of images or recorded video can make it hard to feel that the abuse has come to an end and young people may struggle, feeling that they were to blame even though their actions were directed by the offender. Young people are describe finding it hard to know who to trust after such deception and betrayal online.

Why exactly would a young person engage in sexual acts online?

It can be traumatic for parents and guardians to discover that their children were having sexual conversations and were tricked into sharing sexual images or videos in the first place. Many parents feel a range of emotions from confusion to horror and grief. Many parents also feel angry with their child - please don't.

Whilst feeling angry is understandable it's important to let your child know that they are not at fault, and to work through your feelings with others so they don't get in the way of the support that your child needs from you.

When online abuse happens it is never a young person's fault. As young people reach adolescence and develop sexually, their interest in sex and relationships increases.

Most young people are comfortable communicating and sharing online so it is understandable that they may use the internet to explore sex and relationships. This may be natural but there are some very real risks.

Shame and fear of being blamed, however, can be a major barrier to children seeking help so it's important to help them recognise that responsibility lies entirely with the offender.


It is never the child's fault... the offender has committed a serious crime and those images are the evidence of the crime.

It's also important to remember, that as a parent, you have not failed. It's hard to notice this sort of thing happening as children can be secretive about what they do online. Just remember to be there to support your child, and not let other emotions such as anger affect the support your child needs.

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