Child exploitation

Child exploitation is where children and young people are encouraged, trapped, forced or persuaded to carry out acts for the benefit of a person or a group of people (this can be organised criminal groups or gangs).

It usually involves the child/young person receiving something in return such as alcohol, cigarettes, gifts, money, drugs and affection.

Children and young people can be exploited by adults; but can be exploited by other children/young people too. This is known as 'Peer on Peer Abuse.'

Often when children become exploited they and those around them may not realise it as it happens via a process called ‘grooming’. This is where someone builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person so that they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them.

It is important to remember that exploitation can happen to anyone.

Changes in a child’s behaviour can be a normal part child and adolescent development.

However, there are some circumstances where changes in behaviour are an indication that something is wrong. In these situations, you should trust your instinct – if things don’t feel right, they probably are not.

On the next page you can find a list of warning signs that a child may be being exploited and circumstances which may make a child or young person vulnerable to being exploited.