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Child criminal exploitation is when someone uses a child (under 18 years old) to commit crimes for them.
It includes things like forcing a child to work on a cannabis farm, or targeting, grooming, coercing and exploiting a child to sell drugs in county lines operations.
Child criminal exploitation can involve bribery, intimidation, violence and/or threats. The child does not need to have met whoever is exploiting them - children can be exploited via the internet or using mobile phones.
They can also be targeted via social media platforms and gaming forums.
A child may have been exploited even if it looks as if they have been a willing participant. Many young people do not see themselves as victims.
Children can be exploited by individuals or groups, men or women, and adults or young people.
People who exploit children use the fact that they have power over children, because of an age difference or some other factor like gender, intelligence, strength, status or wealth.
Any child can be a victim of child criminal exploitation, not just those who are known to social care or local authorities. But risk factors include:
Signs to look out for include:
Any sudden change in a young person’s lifestyle could be because of criminal exploitation and you should talk to them about it
It can be really worrying if you know someone who is in a gang or you think you may be being exploited. You don't have to cope with things on your own.
Child criminal exploitation is a form of child abuse.
Advice about child abuse for parents, guardians and professionals
If you suspect someone of criminally exploiting children, or think someone you know has been or is at risk of becoming a victim find out how to report possible child abuse.
If someone is in immediate danger and needs urgent help please call 999 now. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, use our text phone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergency SMS service.
Child Exploitation and Online Protection
Support and advice for children, young people, parents/carers, professionals and private sector organisations.
County Lines & Child Exploitation
Specialist support for young people who are affected by abuse, exploitation, and neglect.
Report child criminal exploitation anonymously.
Parents Against Child Exploitation (Pace)
Support for parents and carers of children who are being exploited by criminals.
Other child abuse support organisations