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Keeping Safe

As children grow and move into adolescence it is natural that they gradually become more independent. This often means that they will spend time with other people that you may not know well, or at all. Most people are safe and positive to be around. Your child will benefit from meeting all sorts of people from different backgrounds.

It is important to be alert to any worrying behaviours from strangers, but also from family and friends. In 95% cases of abuse the person is known to the victim. We are now much more aware of the risks from grooming and gangs, sexual harassment and abuse. This is a good thing meaning abuse can be spotted and stopped sooner. Victims can be helped more quickly, and with greater understanding of the support they need.

It can feel like a scary world to keep children safe in. Remember these crimes are still rare and there are steps you and your child can take to reduce the risk from others.

  • We can help our children keep safe around others and do this by keeping ‘tuned’ in to our children’s lives as they get older. It is important to continue to communicate and be interested in what they are doing and who they are with.

    Whilst you may have different rules for your children from when they were smaller, they still need boundaries, and expectations of how they will behave. You can help them understand that when they act in a mature way, and stick to the family rules this builds the trust that allows you to give them more freedom. 

    It is natural as children get older that their friends have a lot of influence and they may want to spend more time with them. It is still important to know where your child is, who they will be with and when they will be home. Your child may tell you that ‘no one else’ has to do this. It is important that you can are confident that you are giving them the freedom you think they are ready for. All children are different, and mature at their own pace.

    Understanding what risks your child may face, and the early warning signs will allow you to spot concerns quickly and act to keep your child safe.

  • Get your child into the habit of talking to you and other trusted adults about any worries they have – let them know they don’t have to wait until the worry gets too big to cope with – you are always there to help them work out what to do next. If your child is unable to talk to you, think about other safe adults they may be able to open up to more easily. 

    If your child does tell you about worrying things that are happening to them – how you react is important.

    • Take a breath, listen and keep calm
    • Believe what they are saying – it is very unusual for children to make this up
    • Reassure them that they have done the right thing in telling
    • Tell them it is not their fault and you are not cross with them
    • Act to keep your child safe
    • Seek advice – you can contact School, the NSPCC or Norfolk Children's Services to discuss this
    • If you think your child is at risk of immediate harm or a crime has been committed call the police on 999.
  • Grooming is how how abusers get close to their victim. It is a common feature in most unhealthy and abusive relationships. By making an emotional bond with the child or young person, they are less likely to object to their abuse, or tell others about it.

    It can be difficult for young people and their parents to spot a groomer – they will often initially present as friendly and interested and fun to be around. This is the whole purpose of grooming, they are skilled at going undetected to get what they want. Anyone can be a groomer; family, friends, partners, teachers, coaches, they can be male or female, old or young. They might meet them in person or online. Sometimes they befriend parents first as a way to gain access to your child.

    To reduce the chance of your child being groomed, understand what might make a young person more at risk and the common ways that grooming happens.

    There are a number of particular ways that the groomer goes on to exploit and put at risk their victim. As parents it is useful to know about these as it may means you notice quickly if your child is at risk. Knowing facts will allow you to have conversations with your child so they can understand how people might try to harm them and involve them in dangerous activities.

    Groomers seem to spot children and young people who are more likely to go along with this manipulation. This might include;

    • Those who do not have watchful, involved parents or have a lot of free, unsupervised time
    • Those who are lonely or bullied
    • Have a learning difficulty
    • Have low self esteem
    • Not attending school regularly
    • Unlimited, unsupervised internet access
    • Those who have a passion or talent that they are ambitious to progress with; like in sport.

    Once the groomer has spotted a potential victim there are some common ways they might build a bond. Some of the ways they might achieve this are;

    • Offering friendship and special attention
    • Convincing the family that they are a good influence (grooming the parents too!)
    • Being extra helpful – going out of their way
    • Making them feel important and special
    • Buying gifts and giving money
    • Taking them to places that seem exciting and glamourous
    • Introducing them to alcohol and drugs
    • Convincing them that they know them best, and care more than their family and friends
    • Criticising friends and family
    • Isolating them from friends and family
    • Praising them for doing what they ask and gradually increasing the pressure to do more
    • Making threats that they will be in trouble or bad things will happen if they don’t do as they say.

    Unfortunately, many children do not tell when someone is treating them badly, and abuse can carry on for a long time. This might be because;

    • They are frightened
    • They have been threatened or blackmailed
    • They are ashamed or embarrassed
    • They don’t want to upset you
    • They do not see what is happening as abuse - especially in gang culture / romantic ‘relationships’
    • They love the person and don’t want them to get in trouble.

    It is important that parents or carers notice when something might be wrong. If you are worried – trust your instincts and talk to your child. Your child might struggle to have a conversation with you about this, they might get cross with you for even mentioning your worries. You should get advice from professionals about what to do next. You do not have to cope with your worries about your child alone.

  • County Lines is the name used to describe gangs that move drugs around the country and into Norfolk.

    • Drug Dealers now travel outside of big cities to make sales
    • They use mobile phone networks (lines) to communicate across counties
    • They recruit and groom vulnerable young people along the way to make connections and carry out their dirty work
    • They get people involved in weapon carrying - including knife crime, drug dealing and sexual crime
    • They use bribery, threats and gang ‘loyalty’ to get people to do what they say – young people will break the law for them
    • Young people can move through the ranks – holding more power in the gang – making them feel important and they may start grooming and recruiting others too
    • They make young people feel dependent on them and afraid to walk away.

    County Lines includes ‘Gang’ belonging that some young people find attractive. This can feel like being part of a family. The Gang can give a false sense of importance and being a part of something. County Lines includes abuse using both Child Sexual Exploitation and Child Criminal Exploitation. It is important to remember individuals and other groups can also exploit young people in this way too.

  • Child Sexual Exploitation is a form of sexual abuse. It means taking sexual advantage of someone less than 18 years old.

    • The exploiter is often older or in a position of ‘power’ over the young person
    • The abuse may happen face to face or online
    • It is often complicated by the person who is being exploited not realising that they are in an abusive relationship. The young person has not made the choice to do this they have been groomed
    • The grooming may have been so good that they believe the person is their boyfriend or girlfriend
    • It may seem like they are giving consent to the sexual acts but it is not an equal partnership the sex is not part of a loving, respectful relationship
    • They may be persuaded to send sexual pictures of themselves or others - known as sexting (find out more here ) The worry is these images may be shared countless times very quickly with people they know and / or strangers
    • The young person will worry about what will happen if they do not go along with what they are asked to do – they may be blackmailed, threatened with violence, or worry they will lose their ‘relationship’
    • The young person may be put in risky situations and be given drugs and alcohol
    • They can be made to do increasingly horrible sexual acts on people they may not even know.
  • Child Criminal Exploitation is when a person / people involve young people less than 18 years of age in criminal activity. This can involve theft, drug related crimes and violent crime.

    • There is usually an ‘older’ person leading the criminal activity
    • The crimes are often connected to drug deals
    • Vulnerable adults are also recruited – they may take over their home as a base for criminal activity and the gang to meet – this is called ‘cuckooing’
    • Involved young people often go missing from their home – to carry out illegal activity in other parts of the country
    • When involved young people are at high risk of being injured – 160 under 16 year olds and 650 16-18 year olds were admitted to hospital with stab wounds last year.
    • If children get caught for a crime they should be treated as victims not suspects but it is not always clear to police. Victims ‘cover up’ for the gang out of fear. 75000 young people were arrested in 2017
    • They may witness assaults on others that make them afraid not to do as they are told, or to get help.

Who Can Help?

If you are worried your child is at risk please contact the Children's Advice Duty Service (CADS) by calling 0344 800 8020 or NSPCC by calling 0808 800 5000.

You can contact the Healthy Child Programme by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590. Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

If you are 11-19 you can text ChatHealth on 07480 635060 for confidential advice from one of our team. 

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