Online grooming

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Groomers go looking for children online too. A catfish is someone online who pretends to be something they are not.

What is an online groomer?

An online groomer is an adult who wants to have sexual contact with children or young people, and uses the internet for this. The groomer pretends to be a cool boy or a popular girl. He tries to get in contact with you and win your trust. He might pretend to be a fan of a certain singer that you like too, to be into the same sport, or to have the same hobby as you. None of it is really true. Maybe he's looked at your profile and used it to get the information.

How does an online groomer operate?

During the conversation, the groomer collects information from you that helps him to pretend to understand you completely. The chats are enjoyable, fun and make you feel good, because it's nice to be able to talk to someone. At a certain point, the conversation turns to sex and he asks you to undress in front of the camera. He records the images, and uses them to blackmail you later on. He threatens to share the videos with other people and you don't want that. He might also try to meet up with you and have sex.

Against the law and punishable

Online grooming is against the law. It's illegal for adults to approach children or young people under 16 through chat sites, with the intention of getting them to agree to have sex, including webcam sex.

How do you avoid online grooming?

  • Don't connect with people you don't know on social media.
  • Make sure that only people you know can see your profile and your photos on social media. You can customise this in your privacy settings.
  • Never give your address or telephone number to someone on the internet who you don't know in real life.
  • Play it safe with webcam sex and sexting: don’t do it if you don’t know the other person in real life, or it doesn’t seem right and you think it’s risky. Trust your gut feeling. 
  • If you arrange to meet up with someone you met online, take a friend with you, and your mobile phone. Arrange to meet in a public place where there are lots of people. At a station or in a café for instance.


A catfish is someone online who pretends to be something they are not. They might lie about their appearance or their age, for example. Sometimes a catfish will use someone else’s photos for social media or a dating app. So that creates a fake profile.

How do you spot a catfish?

Catfish warning signs are when the person will only chat with you online, never agreeing to talk on the phone or to video chat, or to meet up. They always have all kinds of vague excuses like their camera being broken, not having any time, or someone else being nearby.

Fake photo?

You can also spot a catfish profile by the photos they use. These are often so good that it’s as if the person is a professional model. You can check photos out by searching on Google images. If you find the same photos in a completely different profile, you know that something’s not right!

Why do people catfish?

Sometimes people make a fake profile because they feel insecure about what they look like. They don’t think anyone would want to date them or talk to them if they are themselves. Others do it to try and steal money from you, or perhaps because they want to take revenge for something that has happened to them.

For further information and support: (site in Dutch)