What is “grooming”?

Information about online grooming – what it is, how it works, the warning signs to look out for and where to get help if you need it.

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If you need help with child grooming now, you can free txt ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, call us free on 0508 NETSAFE (0508 638 723) or email [email protected]. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, contact the Police on 111.  

What is “child grooming”?

Child grooming is when an adult tries to build a relationship with a young person so that they can sexually exploit them in some way. This doesn’t always have to be physical – sometimes they are trying to get nude or nearly nude images or videos of the young person or have a sexual conversation with them.  

You might be picturing someone that is a lot older, but sometimes the person doing the grooming is only a few years older than the young person. Even if the groomer is just a few years older, they are still taking advantage of a younger person. Child grooming might sound like something out of movie, but we get a lot of young people coming to Netsafe for help following online grooming.   

How does online child grooming work?

The groomer will contact a young person online. This could be adding or messaging them on social media, chatting in a forum, chatting in an online game or another place online. Some people will pretend to be a young person and use a fake profile (similar to catfishing). Other people will use their actual profile if they aren’t that old themselves. They might pretend to have an interest in common, or to have a friend in common by looking at the young person’s friend list on social media. 

If they aren’t already talking to the young person using private or direct message, they’ll try to move the conversation somewhere private online where others can’t see. The groomer will try to get close with the young person and will sometimes spend a long time doing this (even months or years) before trying to get anything sexual.   

Follow the advice below if you or someone you know has been groomed. You can make a report to Netsafe here www.netsafe.org.nz/report. 

How do groomers get close to young people?

 There are a lot of different ways that groomers will try to get close to a young person. They can be very tricky and manipulative when doing this. 

 Here are some examples of how child groomers try and get close to a young person: 

  • Pretending they are someone that they aren’t (using a fake photo, fake profiles)
  • Pretending to have a shared interest with you (e.g. a sport, music or other hobby) 
  • Starting a friendship or even an online relationship with you – saying they want to be your boyfriend/girlfriend/partner 
  • Offering advice and being overly understanding about something you are going through
  • Telling you about their own difficulties and problems
  • Giving you lots of attention and saying a lot of nice things about you
  • Buying you gifts online or offline
  • Sharing secrets or private information and encouraging you to as well
  • Some groomers will just try to turn things sexual straight away. Sometimes offering gifts or money for images, videos or naked webcam chat

How is this different to other online friendships?

Some of these things might not seem too different from a normal online friendship at first and might only start to get strange after a while.

Here are some of the early warning signs that something might not be quite right: 

  • The person tries to keep the friendship/relationship a secret from others – asking for it to be low-key or kept as something “special” just between the two of you
  • The person wants to talk or video chat online when no one else is around
  • The person starts to act nervous or strange if you mention that your parents or another adult is in the room or close by
  • The person wants to know a lot of information about you quite quickly after meeting, and asks a lot of questions about personal information

How do groomers turn things sexual?

Once the groomer has gained the trust of the young person, they’ll start to move the situation towards something sexual.   

 Here are some common examples of how they might do this:

  • Asking if you’ve had sexual experiences and wanting to know more details about it
  • Talking about their own sexual experiences
  • Talking about sex in general
  • Asking for nude or nearly nude images or videos of you
  • Sending nude or nearly nude images of themselves or other people
  • Trying to get you to do “sexting” (or “talk dirty”) over messages or in a call
  • Sending pornography to you or getting you to visit porn sites
  • Saying that they are sad or depressed, and asking for nudes to make them feel better

How do child groomers keep control?

Once the groomer has started to make things sexual, they’ll try to keep control of the situation. At first, this might be asking to send more photos or videos, or to keep doing sexual things online. If the young person tries to stop doing what they want, they may then start to be more manipulative or aggressive.

 Here are some common examples of how the groomer will try to keep control of the situation: 

  • Try to make you feel bad if you want to stop the sexual activity
  • Say that you would do it again if you really cared about them
  • Bully you and make you feel worthless or bad about yourself  
  • Try to distance you from your family and friends
  • Tell you that other people don’t care about you
  • Threaten to release information, photos, videos or messages if you don’t keep going
  • Threaten to release information, photos, videos or messages if you try to get help
  • Try to make you feel ashamed, embarrassed or guilty for doing it in the first place 
  • Say that you’ll get in trouble with your parents or someone else if other people find out what’s been going on
  • Make you feel like it’s your fault because you chose to take part or enjoyed it
  • Threaten to physically hurt you, your family, your friends or even your pets 
  • Say that they will hurt themselves if you don’t continue with the sexual activity 

Groomers say these things to try to stop people from getting the help they need. They do this because what they’re doing is wrong, and they’re afraid of getting caught. They’ll say anything they need to say to stop the young person from getting help. If this has happened to you, it’s important that you know that none of this is your fault, no matter what they’ve said to you. 

It can be a scary situation to deal with, but there are people that can help. Netsafe has helped lots of young people who have been in the same situation.  

How do I know if I’m being groomed?

Sometimes it might be clear that you’re being groomed because you know that the other person is older than you and has acted inappropriately. Other times it might be tricky because you think you’re talking to someone the same age, but now you’re not so sure.  If you think there’s a chance that you could be being groomed or that the person you’ve been talking to isn’t who they say they are, we can help you work through it. We can give you free advice and help with no judgement. Our helpline is open seven days a week and is totally free.

You can free txt ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, call us free at 0508 NETSAFE or email [email protected]  

I’ve been groomed – what should I do?

The first thing to know is that no matter what you’ve done, none of this is your fault and you don’t need to deal with this alone. If you feel comfortable doing it, you can talk to your parents, your school, a trusted adult (like an aunty or grandparent) or the Police.    

If you don’t feel comfortable talking to them, or you want to talk about the different options you have before you tell anyone, you can come to Netsafe for free help and advice. We help people who are dealing with this kind of thing all the time and you won’t get in any trouble. We’ll listen to what’s been going on, talk about the situation you’re going through, and talk to you about the different things that can be done to help.  

No matter what you’ve said or done or what has happened, you won’t get in any trouble when you contact Netsafe. We won’t judge you and we’ll help you with the situation.  

 You can free txt ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, call us free at 0508 NETSAFE or email [email protected]  

My friend or family member is being groomed

If you think that a friend, family member or anyone else is being groomed, you can still contact Netsafe for help and advice. Netsafe also has specific information about online grooming for parents

 You can free txt ‘Netsafe’ to 4282, call us free on 0508 NETSAFE or email [email protected]  

 How can Netsafe help?

  • We can talk through the different ways to protect yourself online from this person
  • We can talk about how to cut off contact with this person safely – even if they are being aggressive and threatening
  • We can help report the account of the groomer to the platform that it is on (e.g. Instagram, Twitter, Twitch)
  • We can help report the groomer to the police to investigate and talk you through how this works – we may be able to do this anonymously without passing on your details
  • We can work with some online platforms to get leaked nude or semi-nude photos or videos removed quickly
  • We can talk to you about the free counselling services available if you feel you need them
  • Each situation is different, but if you contact us we can work through the best ways to help keep you safe

We treat everything you tell us as confidential. This means we won’t share it with anyone else without your consent to do so. The only time we would need to share this information without your consent is if we are concerned for your safety or the safety of someone else. We may also share information with relevant law enforcement agencies if we believe a dangerous situation has occurred or is occurring. We will always try to tell you this first before we do so.

I’ve been groomed, but not online – what do I do?

If you or someone else is in immediate danger contact the Police on 111.

If you feel comfortable doing it, you can talk to the Police, your parents, your school or a trusted adult (like an aunty or grandparent).

If you would rather ask for help or advice somewhere else, here are some services that can help you:

Safe to Talk – Sexual Harm Helpline

  • Text: 4334 and they will text you back.
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Online chat: Visit safetotalk.nz & click on the “chat to someone” button on the bottom of the page


If you’re still not quite sure where to go or what to do, you can still contact Netsafe and we’ll help you work out what to do next.

Contact Netsafe

For free, non-judgemental advice and help with grooming or anything else online contact Netsafe:

Netsafe also has specific information about online grooming for parents

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