Children and young people may become more isolated and lonely as lockdown continues and they will be spending more and more time online. The NSPCC has warned that this, combined with a shortage of moderators who combat sexual abuse online has created ‘a perfect storm’ for abusers to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. A recent article in The Guardian (April 2020) notes that Europol, the law enforcement agency of the European Union, said it had seen “increased online activity by those seeking child abuse material”. Staff, volunteers, and parents and carers in particular, should be aware of what their children and young people are doing online and educate them about how to stay safe. They should be vigilant to possible signs of abuse and encourage children and young people to tell them if anything or anyone makes them feel uncomfortable. Online abuse can happen on any device connected to the web. Children and young people use text messaging, email, apps, online chats and gaming sites regularly to communicate, and abuse can occur via any of these means. It can include children and young people being persuaded or forced to send sexually explicit images of themselves, or take part in sexual activities or conversations. It also includes exposing or flashing, or showing a child or young person pornography. Children and young people are often ‘groomed’ for the purposes of sexual abuse or exploitation online. Grooming can also happen online or in person, with groomers hiding their true intentions. There are generally 6 stages of grooming:

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