Online grooming refers to the deliberate actions taken by an adult to form a trusting relationship with a child with the intent of later facilitating sexual contact.
Sexually explicit messages, images and videos may be exchanged and the offender may entice the child by sending them gifts or money.
Grooming can take place in chat rooms, through instant messaging, social networking sites or email.
Offenders will contact dozens of young people, communication will quickly become sexually explicit and any positive response will be seized on.
The grooming process can take a matter of hours or years. During the two week period that Kayleigh Haywood was groomed by Luke Harlow they exchanged 2643 messages.
A recent online survey showed that dozens of young people meet with strangers they have spoken to online.
Online grooming is one of our biggest threats, it is a growing crime with more than half of the cases relating to sexual exploitation starting online.
What can I do?
Understand the risks associated with your child being online
Talk to your child about these potential risks
Talk to your child about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships
Be aware of the tell-tale signs that may indicate your child is being sexually exploited.
What should I do if I suspect my child is being groomed?
Raise any concerns with someone you can trust such as your child's teacher or school nurse.
You can also contact Children's Social Care on:
0116 454 1004 (Leicester City), 0116 305 0005 (Leicestershire) & 01572 758 407 (Rutland).
If there is no immediate danger, you can report inappropriate behaviour to the police on 101.
It is also easy to report concerns to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre: www.ceop.police.uk