Offenders access social media platforms; for example, Facebook, Blackberry Messaging (BBM), What’s app and Twitter, to identify young people whom they can groom.

Technology can facilitate sexual exploitation of children. Where abusive images have been posted on, or shared via, the internet, there is little control over who can access them. This can lead to repeat victimisation.

GPS technology available for mobile devices can be used to identify the location where a photograph was taken using co-ordinates which reveal the location to just a few metres away.

CSE can occur through the use of technology without the child realising it. For example, a child or young person is persuaded to post images of themselves on the internet and/or mobile phones.

In some cases, the images are subsequently used as a bargaining tool by the perpetrators and threats of violence and intimidation are used as methods of coercion.

Offenders may use technology to exploit children and young people in the following ways:

  • Harassment and bullying through text messaging.
  • Purchasing mobile phones for victims and sharing their numbers among group or gang members.
  • Randomly contacting children via social networking sites.
  • Using ‘friends’ lists on networking sites of known victims to target children and young people.
  • Viewing extreme or violent pornography and discussing it during sexual assaults.
  • Posting images of victims with rival gang members to invite a sexual assault as punishment.
  • Filming and distributing incidents of rape.
  • Distributing Blackberry PIN numbers for lists of girls labelled as ‘easy’.

Find out more about E-Safety

Net Aware - a guide to social networks children and young people may use

For concerns about online sexual exploitation:

Indecent Images: Know the law

Indecent images of children: guidance for young people

Do you know the law on making or sharing indecent images of people under 18 years-old?

The Home Office has published guidance to help young people understand it. This includes what is meant by 'indecent' and what is considered 'making' or 'sharing images.

Further information: Indecent images of children: guidance for young people

You can also watch short films that demonstrate the serious harm that viewing indecent images of children can cause on the above link.

Do you know the law on making or sharing indecent images of people under 18 years-old?

Taking, making, sharing and possessing indecent images and pseudo-photographs of people under 18 is illegal.

It doesn’t matter how old they look, looking at indecent images of under 18s is illegal.

Remember, those images are of real children and young people, and viewing them causes further harm.

What do these terms mean?

Indecent – can include penetrative and non-penetrative sexual activity

Pseudo-photograph - an image made by computer-graphics or otherwise, which appears to be a photograph. This can include photos, videos, tracings of a photo or data that can converted into a photograph

Making’ - includes opening, accessing, downloading and storing online content. For example:

  • opening an attachment to an email that has an image
  • downloading an image from a website onto a computer screen
  • storing an image in a directory on a computer
  • accessing a website where images appear by way of automatic “pop-ups”

Sharing’ - includes sending on an email, offering on a file sharing platform, uploading to a site that other people have access to, and possessing with a view to distribute.

What is an example of sharing or making an indecent image?

  • someone under the age of 18 who creates, possesses and/or shares sexual imagery of themselves with a peer (under 18) or an adult (over 18)
  • someone under the age of 18 who possesses and/or shares sexual imagery created by another person under 18 with a peer or an adult
  • someone over the age of 18 who creates, possesses and/or shares sexual imagery of a person under the age of 18.

What should you do if you come across indecent images?

If you stumble across indecent images of children under 18 online, you can help by reporting it to the Internet Watch Foundation.

What if someone you know might be at risk?

If you have any suspicion or concerns that a child may be at risk, always contact the police. If a child is in immediate danger, please dial 999 and ask to speak to police.

Do you need help and support?

If you have been affected by any of these issues, more information and support can be found at the following organisations:

Steering clear of Indecent Images of Children - helping young men to stay safe online

A campaign by Marie Collins Foundation, with the Government, the NSPCC and Internet Watch Foundation, it aims to protect victims from online sexual abuse by guiding young men away from illegal content and driving awareness of the law so they can navigate their online environment safely and legally.

Steering clear of indecent images online - Helping young men to stay safe online 
Steering clear of indecent images online - Helping young men to stay safe online 

If you have concerns about child sexual exploitation: 

Call Police on 101 

If you or a young person you care about is in immediate danger: 

Dial 999

If you are concerned about a child in Essex, call Family Operations Hub (Social Care): 

0345 603 7627 or 

0845 606 1212 (out of hours)

To report anonymously, call: 

For concerns about online sexual exploitation: