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Online abuse

Child using laptop computer

Online abuse can include online child sexual abuse and cyberbullying.

Children or young people might be persuaded or forced to provide sexually explicit photos. They might be coerced into participating in sexual activities or conversations via webcam, voice or text.

Once they have provided sexually explicit materials, children might be blackmailed to provide more images under threat of being exposed. The child sexual abuse materials may be shared through online forums or networks.


Online abuse can also include grooming a child with the intention to build trust so that they can sexually abuse or exploit them in the future.

The grooming and the abuse can take place online or in real life, or a combination of both. The person doing the grooming may be someone known by the child or a stranger.

Groomers may pretend to be a young person or to be someone they are not which is known as catfishing. It may be very hard to identify grooming while it is happening.

They may attempt to form a relationship with a child or young person through social media, an online video game or an instant messaging application.

Sometimes a groomer might have access to the child in real life but will attempt to build their trust through email or SMS conversations, or through social media and instant messaging apps.

Signs of online abuse

Signs that a child is suffering abuse online can include:

  • spending dramatically more or less time online
  • getting upset, agitated, angry or withdrawn after being online or receiving a message
  • being secretive about who they are communicating with or what they are doing online.

Getting help

Worried about yourself, a friend or another family member? Get help here.

Find out more

To find out more about online abuse, including information on the prevention and reporting of online abuse, please refer to the Office of the Children’s eSafety Commissioner website.