The Brief: The term child grooming refers to behavior exhibited by an adult to target, isolate, and control a child as preparation for sexual abuse.


The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Sex Offender Sentencing, Monitoring, Apprehending, Registering, and Tracking (SMART) defines grooming as “a method used by offenders that involves building trust with a child and the adults around a child in an effort to gain access to and time alone with her/him. In extreme cases, offenders may use threats and physical force to sexually assault or abuse a child. More common, though, are subtle approaches designed to build relationships with families.”

Grooming may involve a perpetrator giving gifts or special attention to their target. Perpetrators often target victims, gaining trust, and isolating them from others, while controlling and concealing the relationship.

Sexual grooming is a process in which a perpetrator grooms a victim, usually a child, teenager, or vulnerable adult by gaining their trust. This is typically done as preparation with the intent to be sexually abusive.

Online grooming or cybergrooming may take place on messaging applications, social media platforms, or via video game chats. In many cases of online grooming, perpetrators engage in online enticement by posing as minors in order to coerce children into sending them sexually explicit photos or agreeing to meet in person.

If you or someone you know may be a victim of grooming, contact National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on their cyber tipline  or call 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678).