More about the warning signs

Young People

When is a friend… not a friend?

You can often hear about the horrible things people can do to each other on the internet, TV or perhaps even closer to home, discussed in school or college. Some of the awful things that happen to young people happen because people use control and abuse trust in friendship and relationships both on-line or in person.

Making new friends and meeting a whole range of different people is something we all like to do and most people we meet will be genuine but sometimes you can meet people who might try and take advantage of you. Knowing what to look for can help to keep you and your friends safe and stop people taking advantage of you.

Know and see the signs

  • They give you money, drugs, alcohol or gifts and expect something in return
  • They may flatter you, give you loads of attention to make you feel special, but they also ask you to do things which aren’t right
  • They promise you the world but threaten you or use violence if you don’t do what they want
  • They tell you no one understands you like they do and take you away your family and friends
  • They put pressure on you to have sex with them or with someone they know
  • They take pictures or film you, or make you look at images which make you feel uncomfortable
  • They may make you skip school to spend time with them
  • They push you to get involved into criminal behaviour
  • They may ask you to keep secrets from your friends and family and threaten violence if you don’t
  • Boys can be targeted just as easily as girls/perpetrators can be women not just men

Know and see the signs in your friends, look out for each other

Are they?

  • Using drugs or drinking alcohol?
  • Having mood swings, aggression towards others and become distant?
  • Self-harming?
  • Always tired?
  • Staying out late, not returning home?
  • Borrowing clothes from others and have changed in appearance?
  • Not going to school?

Do they have

  • An older boyfriend/girlfriend?
  • Unexplained quantities of money?
  • Unexplained gifts, expensive clothing, jewellery, mobile phones?
  • Unexplained relationships with older people?
  • Bruising on their arms or body?

Report it

If you are concerned about yourself or a friend, call one of the numbers below.

Child exploitation is a crime

You are not alone, there are specially trained professionals that help support you and your family.


Call the
National anonymous
CSE helpline on

116 000
Report child abuse to the
Police by
dialling 101
or anonymously to
Crimestoppers on
0800 555 111
If you or someone you
know is in
immediate danger
dial 999