Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is an illegal activity when a person under 18 is coerced into sexual activities by one or more person(s) who have deliberately targeted their youth and inexperience in order to exercise power over them.

The process often involves a stage of ‘grooming’, in which the child might receive something (such as a mobile phone, clothes, drugs or alcohol, attention or affection) prior to, or as a result of, performing sexual activities, or having sexual activities performed on them..

Child sexual exploitation may occur through the use of technology without the child’s consent or immediate recognition; for example through being persuaded to post sexual images over the internet or through mobile phone images.

Child sexual exploitation is often conducted with actual violence or the threat of violence. This may be threats towards the child, or her or his family and may prevent the child from disclosing the abuse. The child may be so confused by the process, that they do not perceive any abuse at all. The abuser may make the young person think they are in a relationship and are special.

Who is at risk?

All young people are at risk. However the risk to children may be heightened if they have gone missing, in care, are having difficulties at home, are not in education, have drug or alcohol issues, learning difficulties or a disability, or have a history of abuse.

Signs of Child Sexual Exploitation

Often the young person might not realise what is happening to them, or feel that they have no choice.

The teenage years can be difficult times of experimentation and when young people often challenge boundaries. However there are some signs that you can look for that are outside of the norm for this age group’s behaviour and that might indicate CSE.

  • Staying out all night, or going missing for periods of time
  • Coming home late
  • Losing touch with usual peer group
  • Older ‘friends’
  • Constantly being on their mobile phones/social media or reacting to text messages
  • Unexplained gifts or money
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour- including dress style
  • Becoming secretive
  • Missing school
  • Depression or mood swings

What Parents Can Do…

Talk to your child. As children are growing up it is important to establish and keep open lines of communication with them.

  • Discuss consent along with healthy and unhealthy relationships, perhaps using the film links below as an aid for discussion
  • Let them know that you are there to listen if they ever need help
  • Talk to your child about internet safety
  • Learn about the kind of sites and games that they are using
  • Use parental settings on all internet devices

If you suspect your child may be being exploited:

  • Don’t wait if you suspect something is wrong
  • Let your child know that you are there to help and that they are not alone
  • Listen to them and treat their fears seriously
  • Think together what can be done to stop the situation
  • Keep a diary of the situation
  • Get support from the agencies listed below and be persistent

Child Sexual Exploitation Resources and Support



Exploited – Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) film for young people to understand child sexual exploitation
Nude selfies – CEOP short films to help parents know how to talk to their children about ‘sexting’ (sharing indecent images)
PACE UK – Parents against child sexual exploitation – National charity supporting parents and carers of exploited children through advice pages, a helpline and more…

Find links to more general sources of information and support for parents here…

If you think a child could be in immediate danger contact your local police at once or dial 999.