Many of the signs that a child is being abused are the same no matter how the abuse happens.

A child may be experiencing abuse online if they:

  • spend lots, much more or much less time online, texting, gaming or using social media
  • are withdrawn, upset or outraged after using the internet or texting
  • are secretive about who they’re talking to and what they’re doing online or on their mobile phone
  • have lots of new phone numbers, texts or e-mail addresses on their mobile phone, laptop or tablet.

Worried about a child?

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Things you may notice

If you're worried that a child is being abused, watch out for any unusual behaviour. 

  • withdrawn
  • suddenly behaves differently
  • anxious
  • clingy
  • depressed
  • aggressive
  • problems sleeping
  • eating disorders
  • wets the bed
  • soils clothes
  • takes risks
  • misses school
  • changes in eating habits
  • obsessive behaviour
  • nightmares
  • drugs
  • alcohol
  • self-harm
  • thoughts about suicide

If you're worried about a child, contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of child abuse.


The effects of online abuse on children

It doesn’t matter whether abuse happens online or offline, a child can experience harm and long-lasting damage as a result of abuse.

Cyberbullying can make children and young people feel more frightened and helpless than bullying because they feel like they can’t escape. It can also have a similar impact as bullying causing school failure, depression, anxiety and other mental health problems (Munro, 2011).

We don't yet know much about effects of grooming or sexual abuse experienced online. But we do know that sexual abuse can have devastating effects which can last into adulthood.

Work or volunteer with children and families?

Visit NSPCC Learning for information, resources and training to help you safeguard and protect children and young people across the UK.

Go to NSPCC Learning

Signs, symptoms and effects of abuse

Bullying and cyberbullying

Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of bullying and cyberbullying

Learn what to look out for

Grooming

Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of grooming

Learn what to look out for

Child sexual exploitation

Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of child sexual exploitation

Learn what to look out for

Sexual abuse

Find out more about the signs, symptoms and effects of child sexual abuse

Learn what to look out for

References

  1. Munro, E.R. (2011) The protection of children online: a brief scoping review to identify vulnerable groups (PDF). [London]: Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre.