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Advice for parents

Worried about your child?

Child sexual exploitation can be hard to detect and abusers are very clever in their manipulation. Some young people won't even be aware that it is happening to them.

  • Going missing from home and/or school
  • They have unexplained gifts, expensive clothes, mobile phones
  • Unexplained money, frequently taking part in activities requiring money
  • Regularly using drugs or drinking alcohol
  • Mood swings, aggression towards others
  • Getting into trouble with the police
  • Truancy or a drop in performance at school
  • Self-harm e.g. cutting or eating disorders
  • Change in appearance, or borrowing clothes from others
  • Always tired
  • Unexplained relationships with older people
  • Staying out late, not returning home
  • Bruising on their arms or body

It's not always easy to know what our children are up to or if anything is bothering them, but any combination of these tell-tale signs is a strong indicator that something is wrong and you should get help.

Talk through strategies to help them protect themselves if they find themselves in difficult situations. Help them learn how to keep safe.


Pace works alongside parents and carers of children who are or are at risk of being sexually exploited by perpetrators external to the family. It offers guidance and training to professionals on how child sexual exploitation affects the whole family. Find out more at the Pace advice centre.
Further information:


Grooming is when someone builds a connection with a young person to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse. This can happen online or face-to-face.


Grooming and sexual exploitation often takes place online. Make sure you know how to keep your children safe online.

If you are worried about something that has happened online, help is available from CEOP.

Has someone acted inappropriately towards your child online? Report it to CEOP.

If your child shares something online that they wish they hadn't, they shouldn't feel guilty. Help is available from ChildLine, who can also help you and your child get the image(s) removed.


95% of young people at risk from sexual exploitation have gone missing at least once. Not all young people who go missing are reported missing. This leaves them vulnerable to abuse. Trust your instincts and if you are worried your child is at risk, contact the police. Find out more about children going missing.


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Last updated: 25 January 2018 | Last reviewed: 25 January 2018