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Protecting children from online abuse

Last updated: 05 Dec 2023

Online abuse is any type of abuse that happens on the internet, facilitated through technology like computers, tablets, mobile phones and other internet-enabled devices (Department for Education, 2018; Department of Health, 2017; Scottish Government, 2023; Welsh Assembly Government, 2018).

It can happen anywhere online that allows digital communication, such as:

  • social networks
  • text messages and messaging apps
  • email and private messaging
  • online chats
  • comments on live streaming sites
  • voice chat in games.

Children and young people can be revictimised (experience further abuse) when abusive content is recorded, uploaded or shared by others online. This can happen if the original abuse happened online or offline.

Children and young people may experience several types of abuse online:

Children and young people can also be groomed online: perpetrators may use online platforms to build a trusting relationship with the child in order to abuse them. This abuse may happen online or the perpetrator may arrange to meet the child in person with the intention of abusing them.

> Find out more about grooming

> See what data we uncovered about child abuse online in our How safe? 2019 report


Impact of online abuse

Whether abuse happens online or offline it can have a long-lasting impact on a child’s overall wellbeing. Online abuse can lead to:

  • anxiety
  • self-harm
  • eating disorders
  • suicidal thoughts

(Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Home Office, 2020).

Research shows that cyberbullying has similar effects to offline bullying. It can lead to:

  • falling behind at school
  • depression
  • anxiety
  • other mental health difficulties.

Cyberbullying can make children feel more frightened and helpless than bullying that happens offline. Contact from cyberbullies can happen at any time, anywhere and this can make children feel like they can’t escape (Munro, 2011).

> Find out more about the impact of cyberbullying

Online child sexual abuse has as much of an impact on a child or young person as sexual abuse that takes place offline only (Hamilton-Giachritsis et al, 2017). Effects of online sexual abuse can include:

  • self-blame
  • flashbacks or intrusive thoughts
  • difficulties sleeping
  • nightmares
  • extreme tiredness
  • difficulties concentrating
  • difficulties keeping up with school work
  • behavioural problems at school
  • depression
  • low self-esteem
  • social withdrawal
  • panic attacks and anxiety
  • eating disorder or eating difficulties
  • self-harm

(Hamilton-Giachritsis et al, 2017).

However, experiencing abuse online and/or using technology can cause additional effects:

  • young people may be afraid of sexual images being shared online or being viewed in the future, particularly if the perpetrator has made threats about sharing sexual images in order to blackmail the young person into complying with further abuse
  • being filmed can lead some young people to feel uncomfortable around cameras
  • young people who have been in constant contact with the person who abused them via digital technology can become very fatigued – especially if they were in contact during the night. They may also feel powerless and frightened.
  • some young people who were abused online feel that this made them more vulnerable to further abuse by sexualising them, leading them to drink heavily or take risks or reducing their sense of self-worth and confidence

(Hamilton-Giachritsis et al, 2017).

“Within a week, we were, like, in what I considered to be a relationship and, erm, first of all, it started off just normal, as any, like, relationship would, just telling each other we loved each other and stuff, and then it turned into, erm, he would force me to send pictures to him, like…It was over the internet, but I felt like it was forced. If I didn’t, he would, like, have a go at me. Erm, he would ring me at 3am, like, in the morning, and I was in Year 7 at the time, so obviously, like, I needed my sleep. If I went to sleep and didn’t stay up and wait for him, he would have a go at me the next day, so I used to stay up until 3am just to wait for his call and things like that…So, the whole time I was with him, I was so nervous that I was going to get in trouble. My grades went really low and my attendance was really low and, like, I started losing a lot of weight.”

Childline counselling session with a girl aged 17 

 > Find out more about the impact of child sexual abuse

Speaking out

A child or young person may be reluctant to speak out about the abuse they've experienced online.

They may:

  • not understand that they are being abused
  • feel dirty and ashamed
  • be too embarrassed to share the sexual details of what’s happening to them
  • be afraid because of threats of violence from the abuser
  • have been told by the abuser that they won’t be taken seriously
  • have established an emotional attachment with the abuser and don’t want to get them into trouble

(NSPCC and O2, 2016).

They may also blame themselves for the abuse and not expect to get any support. This might especially be the case if they have experienced unsupportive approaches from school, peers and family (Hamilton-Giachritsis et al, 2017).

Their abuser may also have threatened to share sexual images of them if they tell anyone about the abuse. This means they might be frightened to speak out.


Recognising online abuse

It can be easier for perpetrators to initiate, maintain and escalate abuse through digital technology because it gives them:

  • easier access to children and young people through social media and digital messaging
  • anonymity – it's relatively easy to create anonymous profiles on online platforms or pretend to be another child
  • children may have a false sense of safety online which means they're more likely to talk to strangers than in the offline world

(Hamilton-Giachritsis et al, 2017).

Children can be at risk of online abuse from people they know as well as from strangers. Online abuse may be part of abuse that's taking place in the real world such as bullying or an abusive relationship. Or the abuse may happen online only.

> Find out more about bullying and cyberbullying

A child who is experiencing abuse online may:

  • spend much more or much less time than usual online, texting, gaming or using social media
  • be withdrawn, upset or outraged after using the internet or texting
  • be secretive about who they’re talking to and what they're doing online or on their mobile phone
  • have lots of new phone numbers, texts or e-mail addresses on their mobile phone, laptop or tablet.


Children Online: Research and Evidence (CO:RE) has developed a framework of risks called the 4Cs (Livingstone and Stoilova, 2021). This outlines the risks a child may experience when they are online.


Children may come across age-inappropriate content online, such as violent, hateful or inappropriate sexual content. They may also be exposed to biased, racist or misleading information.


If a child is actively engaged in the online world, they may become involved in interactions that could be harmful to them. This includes being bullied, harassed or stalked, receiving sexualised requests or being groomed.


Without meaning to, a child may behave in a way that puts them and/or others at risk. For example they may become involved in: bullying behaviour; creating, uploading or sharing nudes or semi-nude images; or providing misleading information to others.

Contract or commerce

Children can be exploited by potential harmful commercial interests such as gambling or age-inappropriate marketing; or left open to risks such as identity theft, fraud or scams.

> Read more about the 4Cs of online safety

Vulnerability factors

There's no clear set of factors that make children and young people more likely to be affected by online abuse. Different circumstances in a child's life may combine to make them more at risk. But some factors can make children and young people more vulnerable to abuse.


Pre- and early teens are an especially vulnerable age for children online. From 11-12, children start to explore and take risks online, but they haven't yet developed the skills needed to recognise danger or build resilience against things that might upset them (Munro, 2011; Livingstone and Palmer, 2012).

Children aged 9-16 are particularly vulnerable to:

  • seeing sexual images online
  • seeing online content that promotes potentially harmful behaviour, such as pro-anorexia or self-harm sites
  • being bullied online (Mascheroni and Cuman, 2014).

At this age, young people may be starting to explore their sexuality too. They might find adult pornography online or start online relationships with people they don’t know (Munro, 2011; Livingstone and Palmer, 2012).

Teenagers may be more vulnerable to cyberbullying than younger children (NSPCC, 2015).

> For information about adolescents’ experiences of abuse see our How safe are our children? report for 2020


Boys and girls may differ in the types of risks they take online and the risks they are exposed to.

EUKids Online research (Livingstone et al, 2009) found that boys are more likely to:

  • look for offensive or violent pornography online, or be sent links to pornographic websites
  • meet someone offline who they have talked to online
  • give out personal information.

The research also found that girls are more likely to:

  • be upset by violent or offensive online pornographic content
  • chat online with people they don’t know
  • receive unwanted sexual comments
  • be asked for personal information (Livingstone et al, 2009).

Research also suggests that girls are more likely to experience ongoing cyberbullying than boys (Cross et al, 2009).

Vulnerability to online grooming

Loneliness, social isolation and family problems may make young people more vulnerable to being groomed online (NSPCC and O2, 2016). Groomers may initially be attentive and sympathetic, which means a young person who is experiencing difficulties may quickly see them as a trusted source of support, especially if they are pretending to be another child.

> Find out more about grooming

Special educational needs or disability

Children with special educational needs (SEN) or disabilities are particularly vulnerable to online abuse (Livingstone and Palmer, 2012). A child with SEN or a disability may:

  • have low self-confidence, seeing themself as an 'outsider'
  • lack strong peer networks and be less likely to tell a friend when they experience upsetting things online
  • have more unsupervised time online, with fewer structures and boundaries (Livingstone and Palmer, 2012).

Responding to online abuse

All organisations that work with children should have a child protection policy and procedures that set out what action staff and volunteers should take if they have concerns about a child’s safety online.

Everyone who works or volunteers for the organisation should read and understand these documents.

> Look at our example online safety policy statement


If you think a child is in immediate danger, contact the police on 999. If you're worried about a child but they are not in immediate danger, you should share your concerns.

  • Follow your organisational child protection procedures. Organisations that work with children and families must have safeguarding policies and procedures in place.
  • Contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000 or by emailing Our trained professionals will talk through your concerns with you and give you expert advice. 
  • Contact your local child protection services. Their contact details can be found on the website for the local authority the child lives in. 
  • Contact the police.
  • If your concern is about online sexual abuse, you can make a report to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) command.

The police and NSPCC will assess the situation and take action to protect the child as appropriate. This may include making a referral to the local authority.

Services will risk assess the situation and take action to protect the child as appropriate either through statutory involvement or other support. This may include making a referral to the local authority.

> See our information about recognising and responding to abuse

> Find out how to report concerns about online images on our sexting pages

Reporting online child abuse images

It's against the law to produce or share images of child abuse, even if the image was self-created. This includes sharing images and videos over social media.

If you see a video or image that shows a child being abused:

  • Don’t comment, like or share the video or image, as this will distribute it further.
  • Report it to the website you've seen it on.
  • Report it to the police.
  • Contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 and we’ll report it to the police for you.

If the image or video involves the sexual abuse of a child, report it to the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) who will take steps to get it removed from the internet.

Young people under 18 who are worried that a sexual image or video of them may have been shared online can use Childline and IWF’s Report Remove tool to see if it can be taken down. 

> Find out more about how you can support young people to use Report Remove

> See Childline’s advice for young people on reporting nude images online

Some images and videos may appear old but it's still important to report them. You can help prevent the video being shared further by alerting the person sharing the video that it’s been reported to the authorities.

> See our information about recognising and responding to abuse for more details

Responding to cases of online abuse

When responding to cases of online abuse, it's important for adults to understand the impact it can have on a young person’s wellbeing. They should:

  • listen calmly to what the child has to say
  • remember that the young person may be embarrassed and/or ashamed
  • be non-judgmental and make sure the child knows that abuse is never their fault.

It's also important for adults to understand that online and offline abuse are often entwined and ask tactful questions when the child is ready to understand the context of the abuse. This will enable them to provide the child with the right support.

Parents should be informed about cases of online abuse unless to do so would put a child at further risk of harm. They may need additional support to understand what has happened and how best to help their child.

In cases where the child or young person has gone to the police about online abuse, it's important for them to:

  • fully explain the legal process in a way the child or young person can understand
  • be friendly, reduce formalities as much as possible and make the child feel comfortable
  • offer the child choice where possible, for example:
    • how they want to give evidence
    • the gender of the key police officer(s) involved
    • what other professionals they would like to be involved
  • provide a consistent officer to work with the child throughout the case
  • keep in contact with the child and their family regularly and provide regular updates on the progress of the case (Hamilton-Giachritsis et al, 2017).

Children who have experienced online abuse need to be provided with ongoing support.


Preventing online abuse

It’s essential for adults who work with children and young people of all ages to have ongoing discussions with them about the benefits and risks associated with online activities. This includes:

  • online safety
  • healthy relationships, abuse and consent
  • where to go for help
  • how to report unacceptable activity or behaviour

(UNICEF, 2011; Hamilton-Giachritsis et al, 2017).

All organisations that work with children should have written policies and procedures that set out how they intend to promote online safety. We’ve created examples of an online safety policy statement and online safety agreement that you can tailor to the context of your organisation.

> See our example online safety policy statement and agreement

It's also important to support parents to know how to keep their children safe online.

Keeping children safe online

While the internet is often a positive part of children’s lives, young people can be vulnerable to abuse and inappropriate content in the online world. There are actions parents, carers and organisations can take to keep online spaces safe for children.

  • Make sure you’re available to talk to children and young people about anything worrying they experience online.
  • Recognise how important the online world is to children and young people. Talk to them about it.
  • Make sure online safety is an ongoing part of your work with children and young people, not just a one-off session.
  • Set rules for the use of online platforms in your organisation. Make sure children and young people understand them and are involved in setting them.
  • Use technical solutions to manage access to online platforms in your organisation. Make sure children and young people know about this and understand why you’ve put them in place.
  • Talk to children and young people about their own privacy settings and help them manage what other people can find out about them online.

Our online safety training can help you gain the skills to act appropriately and confidently to protect the children you work with from online abuse.

> Find out more about what the training entails

If you’re setting up an online community or running online support services, you should make sure your virtual environment is safe for children and young people.

> Take our online training course on managing online communities

> Read more about risk assessing online platforms

A variety of resources are available on the NSPCC website to share with parents and carers to help them keep children safe online, including a dedicated guide to setting up parental controls.

> Signpost parents and carers to advice on setting up parental controls

We also have a range of guides and example documents schools can use in developing policies and procedures for responding to an online safety incident.

If you are interested in developing an online safety campaign for professionals, parents or young people, we can help you. Our local campaigns team work with communities and local authorities across the UK to raise awareness of online risks.

> Get in touch with us to discuss your community’s needs

Building children’s online safety skills

It’s important that adults help build children’s resilience to online harms by talking to them about online safety (UNICEF, 2011; Livingstone and Palmer, 2012).

We’ve created guides for parents and carers on:


Schools can play an important role in educating children about:

  • how to use the internet in a safe and responsible way
  • how to behave appropriately online
  • what to do if they are worried about something they see online or that is sent to them electronically.

Messages about staying safe online should be embedded in the school curriculum.

This can be done through:

  • information technology (IT)/computing lessons
  • personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) (England), personal development and mutual understanding (PDMU) (Northern Ireland), and personal and social education (PSE) (Wales and Scotland) and relationships)
  • relationships and sex education lessons (RSE)
  • assemblies, for example inviting police officers into schools to interact with children and deliver messages on how to keep safe online (Coffey and Lloyd, 2014).

Our free Speak out Stay safe service for schools helps primary school children understand abuse in all its forms and know how to protect themselves.

We’ve created a range of resources to help you have discussions about online safety.

> Look at our online safety resources for schools

> Read our tips on how to have difficult conversations with children and young people

> Find out more about e-safety for schools 

Online behaviour

Everyone who works or volunteers for your organisation should follow an online code of conduct. This includes:

  • not engaging with children on social networking sites or through mobile devices
  • keeping personal information private online
  • considering the long term implications of content posted online
  • not uploading or posting inappropriate offensive or illegal content on any online space.

> Look at our example behaviour code for adults

You should also promote healthy online behaviour amongst the children and young people you work with. You may want to consider using an online safety agreement.

> Look at our example online safety agreement

Direct work

Direct work with children who have experienced online abuse

Many of the approaches used to help children who have experienced offline abuse can be used to support those who have experienced online abuse.

Interventions should focus on helping children to build trust again and make sense of their experience (UNICEF, 2011). Parents may also need help to understand their child’s online experiences and how they can support them.

Services to help children

Our therapeutic services can help children and young people who have experienced online abuse move forward.

Letting the Future In (LTFI) is an evidence-based programme helps children who have been sexually abused get back on track – including online sexual abuse. The programme has also been adapted for children age 4-19 with a disability.

We evaluated LTFI and learned that it resulted in positive changes for children, including:

  • improved mood
  • better confidence
  • reduction in guilt and self-blame
  • reduced depression, anxiety and anger
  • improved sleep patterns
  • better understanding of appropriate sexual behaviour (NSPCC, 2016).

We’re supporting other organisations to deliver Letting the Future In. This includes successfully training social care professionals to deliver therapeutic work.

> Find out more about Letting the Future In

Legislation, policy and guidance

Key legislation for online abuse

Across the UK, criminal and civil legislation aims to prevent a range of abusive activities online including:

  • stalking
  • harassment
  • improper use of a public communications network
  • sending indecent, offensive, false or threatening communications
  • sending private sexual photos or videos of another person without their consent.

Online harassment and victimisation

Throughout the UK, the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to make improper use of a public communications network. Section 127 specifically makes it an offence to send an electronic message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.

In England and Wales, the Malicious Communications Act 1988 makes it an offence to send a communication with the intention of causing distress or anxiety.

In Northern Ireland, the Malicious Communications (Northern Ireland) Order 1988 sets out this offence.

> Find out more about the legislation to prevent bullying and cyberbullying 

Online sexual abuse

Across the UK, the legislation setting out sexual offences also applies to online child sexual abuse, including:

  • sexual communication with a child
  • causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity
  • causing a child to watch a sexual act
  • paying for sexual services of a child
  • causing or inciting sexual exploitation of a child
  • engaging in sexual activity in the presence of a child.

Trafficking and modern slavery legislation across the UK makes it an offence to traffic and/or enslave children for sexual exploitation and makes provisions for sentencing offenders. These can also apply to trafficking children for online sexual exploitation.

> Find out more about the legislation for child sexual abuse 

> Find out more about the legislation for child sexual exploitation 

> Find more information about the legislation for child trafficking 


Young people might exchange sexual messages and self-generated sexual images or videos through a mobile phone network or the internet (sexting).

> Find out more about the legislation for sexting

Online grooming

Throughout the UK, criminal and sexual offence legislation makes it an offence to groom a child and meeting a child following sexual grooming.

> Find out more about the legislation to prevent child sexual abuse 

Legal responsibilities for website hosts and social media platforms

In England and Wales, the Defamation Act 2013 makes the website host responsible for removing defamatory material posted to a site.

Section 103 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 requires social media platforms across the UK to follow a code of practice which sets out the actions they must take to protect individuals from bullying, intimidation and insulating behaviour online.

The Online Safety Act 2023 received Royal Assent in October 2023. It sets out a regulatory framework to protect children from online harms in the UK. The framework will require companies to:

  • take action to prevent illegal online content and activity that threatens the safety of children
  • ensure that children who use their services are not exposed to harmful content and activity.

It also establishes Ofcom as the independent regulator responsible for implementing, overseeing and enforcing the regulatory framework and raising awareness about online safety. Ofcom is taking a phased approach to producing and consulting on codes and guidance for companies on complying with the new duties (Ofcom, 2023).

In the interim, the DCMS and Home Office have published voluntary codes on tackling online child sexual exploitation and abuse and terrorist content and activity online (DCMS and Home Office, 2020b).

The UK Home Office has published guidance aimed at tech firms, the Voluntary principles to counter online child sexual exploitation and abuse. The guidance is comprised of 11 actions that online companies should take to tackle online sexual exploitation, including on tackling child sexual abuse material, online grooming and livestreaming of child sexual abuse. The guidance was developed in collaboration with the Governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA (Home Office, 2021).

The Information Commissioner's Office's (ICO) Children's Code (or Age Appropriate Design Code) sets out 15 standards that providers of online products or services likely to be accessed by children should comply with. The code explains how providers can design services that appropriately safeguard children's personal data and comply with data protection and privacy laws (Information Commissioner's Office, 2021).

Video sharing platforms are required to comply with the Video-sharing Platform (VSP) regulation to protect users from harmful content. The regulation includes a requirement for VSPs to take appropriate measures to protect children from content that might impair their physical, mental or moral development (Ofcom, 2021).

Key guidance

Across the UK, statutory guidance highlights the responsibility of those in the education, community and care sectors to safeguard children from all forms of abuse and neglect including online abuse:

There is also more specific guidance for people who work with children about safeguarding children from online abuse.

Keeping children safe from online abuse

The ITU (International Telecommunication Union) has published child online protection guidelines. These guidelines provide a framework that supports the development of effective online child protection measures. They include specific resources for:

  • the technology industry
  • policy makers
  • parents, carers and educators
  • children

(ITU, 2021).

The UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) has produced a framework (PDF) for people who work with children across the UK that highlights the digital skills and knowledge children need to stay safe online. It includes discussion around:

  • online relationships
  • online reputation
  • online bullying (UKCIS, 2020a).

In addition, UKCIS has published a digital resilience framework designed to help organisations consider and support digital resilience for individuals and groups (UKCIS, 2020b).

UKCIS also provides guidance about online safeguarding in early years settings for managers and practitioners (UKCIS, 2019).

In England, the Department for Education (DfE) has published non-statutory guidance on teaching online safety in school (PDF). (DfE, 2023)

The Home Office has developed an Online abuse and bullying prevention guide (PDF) for those who work with young people in England and Wales. This aims to help them understand the types of online abuse, its consequences and where to go for help. Topics covered include:

  • threatening behaviour
  • cyberbullying
  • online grooming (Home Office, 2015).

The Department of Education Northern Ireland provides Internet and WiFi guidance which includes a range of advice on how internet technology can be used safely in schools. Topics covered include:

  • online safety
  • mobile and digital devices
  • guidance on using the internet safely (Department of Education, 2021).

Education Scotland's Parentzone provides resources for parents and carers on understanding risks to children's safety online and may be useful for professionals who work with children (Education Scotland, 2021).

Our online safety elearning course helps people who work with children across the UK understand what they need to do to safeguard children online.

> Take our online safety training course online

Key policy

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) has published an Online media literacy strategy, which aims to educate and empower internet users across the UK to manage their online safety (DCMS, 2021b).

In England and Wales, the Home Office has published the Tackling child sexual abuse strategy which sets out how to prevent, tackle and respond to child sexual abuse that occurs online and offline (Home Office, 2021b).

In Northern Ireland, the Online safety strategy and action plan aims to educate and empower children and young people online. It sets out three commitments to:

  • create a sustainable online safety infrastructure
  • educate children and young people, their parents and carers, and those who work with them
  • develop evidence-informed quality standards for online safety provision

(Department of Health, 2021).

In Scotland, the National action plan on internet safety for children and young people (PDF) highlights the government’s commitment to:

  • give everybody the skills, knowledge and understanding to help children and young people stay safe online
  • inspire safe and responsible use and behaviour
  • create a safer online environment

    (Scottish Government, 2017).

In Wales, the Online safety action plan for children and young people in Wales (PDF) is designed for all professionals working with children and highlights the government's commitments around:

  • providing advice and support
  • working with UK wide partners
  • promoting online safety
  • keeping guidance up to date, to reflect changes in technology
  • supporting research into children's internet use
  • providing relevant training to practitioners

    (Welsh Government, 2018).

Keep up to date with new legislation and guidance by signing up to CASPAR, our current awareness service for policy, practice and research.

References and resources

References and resources

Coffey, A. and Lloyd, T. (2014) Real voices: child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester (PDF). [Manchester]: Greater Manchester Police Force.

Cross, E.J., et al (2009) Virtual violence: protecting children from cyberbullying. London: Beatbullying.

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Home Office (2020) Online harms: interim codes of practice. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) (2021b) Online media literacy strategy. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Department for Education (DfE) (2018) Working together to safeguard children: a guide to inter-agency working to safeguard and promote the welfare of children. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Department for Education (DfE) (2023) Teaching online safety in schools: (PDF). [London]: Department for Education (DfE).

Department of Education (DfE) (2021) Internet and wifi guidance. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Department of Health (2021) Online safety strategy and action plan. Belfast: Department of Health.

Department of Health (2017) Co-operating to safeguard children and young people in Northern Ireland. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Education Scotland (2021). Parentzone Scotland: internet safety. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Hamilton-Giachritsis, C., et al (2017) "Everyone deserves to be happy and safe": a mixed methods study exploring how online and offline child sexual abuse impact young people and how professionals respond to it. London: NSPCC.

Home Office (2015) Online abuse and bullying prevention guide for professionals working with young people (PDF). [London]: Home Office.

Home Office (2021a) Voluntary principles to counter online child sexual exploitation and abuse. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Home Office (2021b) Tackling child sexual abuse strategy. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) (2021) Children's Code hub. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

International Telecommunications Union (2021) Guidelines on Child Protection Online. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Livingstone, S. and Haddon, L. (2009) EU kids online: findings, methods, recommendations. London: London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

Livingstone S. and Palmer, T. (2012) Identifying vulnerable children online and what strategies can help them: report of a seminar arranged by the UKCCIS Evidence Group on 24th January, 2012 (PDF). [Exeter, Devon]: UK Council for Child internet Safety (UKCCIS).

Livingstone, S. and Stoilova, M. (2021) The 4Cs: classifying online risk to children. CO:RE short report series on key topics. Hamburg: Leibniz-Institut für Medienforschung Hans-Bredow-Institut (HBI).

Mascheroni, G. and Cuman, A. (2014) Net children go mobile: final report: deliverables. D6.4 and D5.2. Milan: Educatt.

Munro, E.R. (2011) The protection of children online: a brief scoping review to identify vulnerable groups (PDF). [London]: Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre.

NSPCC (2015) "Always there when I need you": Childline review: what’s affected children in April 2014 - March 2015. London: NSPCC.

NSPCC (2016) Letting the Future In: a therapeutic intervention for children affected by sexual abuse and their carers (PDF). London: NSPCC.

NSPCC and O2 (2016) “What should I do?”: NSPCC helplines: responding to children’s and parents’ concerns about sexual content online. [London]: NSPCC.

NSPCC Cymru/Wales and Swansea University (2017) Stop TIME online: an anti-online grooming activity pack. [Swansea]: NSPCC.

Ofcom (2021) Video-sharing platform (VSP) regulation. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Ofcom (2023) Update: how Ofcom is preparing to regulate online safety. [Accessed 23/10/2023].

Scottish Government (2017) National action plan on internet safety for children and young people. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

Scottish Government (2023) National guidance for child protection in Scotland - updated 2023. [20/11/2023].

UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) (2019) Safeguarding children and protecting professionals in early years settings: online safety considerations. London: UK Council for Internet Safety.

UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) (2020a) Education for a connected world: a framework to equip children and young people for digital life. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) (2020b) Digital Resilience Framework. London: UK Council for Internet Safety. [Accessed 10/09/2021].

UNICEF (2011). Child safety online: global strategies and challenges (PDF). Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.

Welsh Assembly Government (2018). An online safety action plan for children and young people in Wales (PDF). Cardiff: Welsh Assembly Government.


If a child or young person needs confidential help and advice direct them to Childline. Calls to 0800 1111 are free and children can also contact Childline online or get advice from the website about:

> Find out more about sexting and getting abusive images removed from the internet

You can also download or order Childline posters and wallet cards.


Our elearning courses can help develop your understanding of how to protect children from abuse:

Related NSPCC resources

Read our reports and briefings on:

Look at our guidance on promoting healthy relationships in schools.

Further reading

For further reading about online abuse, search the NSPCC Library catalogue using the keywords: "online abuse" "online grooming" "online safety" "cyberbullying" "sexting" "child abuse images".

> Find out more about the Library and Information Service

Read our NSPCC helplines report about children’s and parents’ concerns about sexual content online.