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Look out for the signs of exploitation.

This summer, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner in partnership with Hampshire County Council, Isle of Wight Council, Portsmouth City Council and Southampton City Council have relaunched a campaign aimed at parents to raise awareness of child exploitation and offer help on how to see the signs, what to do and where to get help.

Child exploitation is happening now in your area. The signs are subtle, which is why it is called a hidden harm.

This page will help you to:

What is exploitation?

Child exploitation is a form of child abuse.

Exploitation is when individuals or groups take advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child into doing what they want in exchange for something the child wants or needs. This is always to the benefit of the exploiter. This can include the child being coerced into having sex or committing crimes, like carrying and delivering cash or drugs for a gang.

How does it happen?

People, normally older children and young adults, befriend a child and build trust with them to develop a relationship in order to get them to do what they want. This is called grooming. They may offer children money, drugs, gifts, protection, friendship, love or affection as a means of gaining their trust. They may also use physical violence and threats as a means of control once the relationship has been established.

It is not always easy to see the warning signs, and they may be confused with signs of a young person just growing up or gaining independence and new friends, but they may also be indicators that your child is at risk of exploitation.

This video created by the Metropolitan Police in London shows how children are groomed and what it can lead to:



  • Regularly going missing/coming home late.
  • Increasingly secretive.
  • Suddenly having an older boyfriend/girlfriend or friendship group.
  • Sudden change in friendships.
  • Returning home under the influence of drugs/alcohol.
  • Unexplained injuries.
  • STDs or pregnancy/terminations.
  • Getting into trouble at school/in the community.
  • Suddenly having expensive clothes, trainers, money and valuable items.
  • Asking for money for often excessive need for money.
  • Receiving a lot of texts/phone calls.
  • Burner’ phones/multiple phones.
  • Sudden interest in gang culture/drill music or other types of music you are not familiar with.
  • Change in language – use of urban slang or phrases related to drug dealing.
  • Carrying items linked to criminal activity like weapons, balaclavas, tools, stash bags or small weighing scales.

For more information, click here.


  • Ask questions and listen without judgement. Children need to know they can talk without fear of their parents getting cross and upset.
  • Pay attention to their behaviour. Many children cannot voice their worries but will show them in how they act.
  • Know their friends. Question new friendships and be aware of any secrecy around these.
  • If your child is picked up by someone in a car, make you know who they are and where they are going, and record as much detail as possible.
  • If your child takes a journey on a train or bus on their own, check their ticket, know the route and their destination.
  • Take an active interest in their online life by checking their phone and internet history.
  • Use online security settings and talk about the sites they are visiting and why.


Hampshire and the Isle of Wight


The Safe4me website provides educators, service providers and parents with information and resources to help educate, guide and support children and young people to keeping safe.


Hampshire 24/7

Provided by Catch 22, drug and alcohol treatment service for young people aged under 25 years old: 0845 459 9405

Hampshire 24/7


Let’s Talk about It

A range of services based on health need There are a range of useful groups and organisations that offer great services for young people across Portsmouth, Southampton, Isle of Wight and Hampshire.


Step by Step

A charity that empowers young people and prevents homelessness.


Family Information Services Hub

Support in coping with difficult teen behaviours for parents.

Coping with your teenager | Family Information and Services Hub (


Mental Wellbeing Hampshire

Mental Wellbeing Hampshire provides support for a range of mental health issues and experiences. There is a specific section children and young people including local support.

Mental Wellbeing Hampshire


Hampshire LSCP

Local Government partnerships that support child safeguarding.



Local Government partnerships that support child safeguarding.


Southampton LSCP

Local Government partnerships that support child safeguarding.


No Limits

No Limits is a charity offering free and confidential information, advice, counselling, advocacy and support to children and young people under the age of 26 in Southampton and Hampshire.



The Drug and Alcohol Support Service (DASS) works with young people under 19 in Portsmouth who are using substances.


Portsmouth LSCP

Local Government partnerships that support child safeguarding.



Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command

The CEOP provides the latest advice on child exploitation.



Fearless is a site where you can access non-judgemental information and advice about crime and criminality. What makes this site different is we also provide you with a safe place to give information to us about crime – 100% anonymously.



We never stop caring. We are the only UK charity lifeline for anyone affected by someone going missing. For support call 116 000.



Report Crime anonymously.



On line counselling Service – Your online mental wellbeing community.



The National Crime Agency’s CEOP Education team aim to help protect children and young people from online child sexual abuse. We do this through our education programme, providing training, resources and information to professionals working with children, young people and their families.