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Child Exploitation


If you are concerned a child or young person is being criminally or sexually exploited you must report it.

There is a Child Exploitation Indicator Tool that can be used alongside the established referral process and should be attached to the MARF when referring to First Response.

Information on how to report concerns can be found here.

What is Child Exploitation?

Child Exploitation is a form of child abuse. It involves a child being tricked, coerced or forced to commit crimes for others or to take part in sexual activity. This abuse takes place away from the home and family environment.

Child Exploitation can happen to any child and takes place across the Country.

Whilst children can sometimes feel that they are making the ‘choice’ to take part in this behaviour, they cannot consent to their own exploitation.

Child Exploitation is often split into 2 different categories. However, it is important to recognise that Child Exploitation can involve both types.

Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)

CCE involves an individual or group taking advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child into committing a crime. This can involve ‘County Drug Lines’ which would relate to a child being involved in the movement of drugs or dealing these. However, it can involve any criminal act. For example, taking part in a Robbery/Burglary for the benefit of someone else; or allowing their bank/gaming account to be used for laundering of money.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

CSE involves an individual or group taking advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child into a sexual act. This act would be for the benefit of someone else. Sometimes they may receive attention, affection, money, drugs/alcohol or gifts in exchange (although not always).

For both types of exploitation this can take place in person (face-to-face) or online. Sometimes it can start online and then move on to meeting your child in person.

What to look out for?

It’s not always easy to spot the signs of Child Exploitation. Often the biggest sign is a change in their behaviour. Where possible, try talking to your child about your worries.

Some signs to look out for include:

  • Being frightened of some people, places or situations
  • Increasing secrecy
  • Sharp changes in mood or character
  • Having money or things that cannot be explained
  • Physical signs of abuse (bruises, cuts, injuries without an explanation)
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Increase in missing episodes
  • Substance misuse
  • Increase in travel in/outside of the County
  • Significantly older peers
  • Meeting people in person that they have only spoken to online
  • Seen getting into/out of vehicles that you do not know

Any one of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean that a child is being exploited, but the presence of several suggests that you should begin to ask questions and consider seeking help.

Online safety and gaming

Child Exploitation can take place online. Children have greater access to devices that are internet enabled in their lives. This can include: Smart TV’s, gaming devices, mobile phones and computers/laptops. This has created greater opportunities for exploiters to reach children.

Parental controls

Parental controls are very important to keeping children safe online. Internet Matters provides specific guidance for how to put these on for each individual device – Parental Controls & Privacy Settings Guides | Internet Matters

Live Streaming

There has been a rise in children Live Streaming in recent years. This carries similar risks to other online activity. We would encourage the following safety advice:

  • Encourage your child to only Live Stream when you are present
  • Have open conversations about why they wish to live stream and what they plan to do in the live stream
  • Where possible, ensure this takes place in an open space
  • Ensure that they are not wearing school uniform, or anything else that would share information about them
  • Ensure that photos, door numbers, road names cannot be seen


It is very common for children to now be gaming. This is often an important part of their development and how they socialise. However, it can create opportunities for exploitation online.

Some exploitation online can include children receiving gaming credits/money for sending indecent images of themselves. Exploiters can also ask for their gaming/bank details so that they can launder money through their account. It is important that children don’t talk to people online that they don’t know in real life.

The below terminology is important to understand if your child is gaming:

Skins – These are avatars that come with most games. Changing your ‘skin’ usually requires a financial cost and certain skins are more desirable/cost more.

Nube – This refers to the ‘skin’ that comes with you joining the game. Nube refers to ‘newbie’ in the game. Nube often has negative connotations and most young people will want to buy a new skin quickly to avoid being referred to as a Nube. Nube’s are known to be targeted for exploitation online as they will be encouraged to do things in exchange for gaming credits/gift cards. We would always suggest a parent considering uploading a small amount of credit to enable your child to change their ‘skin’ straight away.

Crypto-Currency – A digital currency

Loot Boxes – These are often earnt/bought in gaming apps. They are similar to a scratch card in that you do not know what the prize may be. These can be gifted by exploiters through the game.