Preventing child sexual abuse and exploitation

Drive to raise awareness of online dangers.  

A campaign has been launched to help children and young people recognise the signs of online harms including child sexual abuse and exploitation (CSE).

The CSEthe Signs initiative aims to raise awareness among those aged 11 to 17 and their parents and carers of what constitutes CSE, and where they can go for advice and support if they have concerns. 

It is part of a coordinated response from the Scottish Government, Police Scotland and Child Protection Committees Scotland, who will each run campaigns this month to help keep young people safe online.

Police Scotland recently announced that reports of online sexual abuse and exploitation increased by 13.4% from April to December 2020 compared with the same period in 2019.

Children’s Minister Maree Todd said:

“We are determined to tackle child sexual exploitation in all its forms and it is very worrying to see a rise in reports of this abhorrent type of abuse online.

“Many children and young people have been spending more time online as a result of the pandemic, so now more than ever it is vital that they and their parents and carers know how to stay safe. The CSEthe Signs campaign provides valuable information on what to look out for and where to get advice and support if there are concerns about CSE.

“The campaign adds to the extensive range of work the Scottish Government and partners have been doing to prevent CSE, including delivery of our National CSE Action Plan.”

Assistant Chief Constable Judi Heaton, lead for Public Protection and Major Crime, Police Scotland, said:

“The internet brings huge benefits and opportunities but it also opens the door for abuse and online predators. Children and young people should be able to access the virtual world, platforms and apps, chat with their friends and explore without the threat of abuse and exploitation. By working together we want to empower children and young people to protect themselves online, to identify when something is not right and to report it either to their parents, their teachers or to the police.”

Child Protection Committees Scotland chair Alan Small said:

“Parents and carers play a vital role in protecting their children from the predatory behaviour of online abusers. It’s important that support and guidance is provided to help parents feel confident about asking what their children are looking at online and who they are talking to. Campaigns like CSEthe Signs help parents and carers understand what they can do to keep all of our children and young people safe from online harm.” 

The CSEthe Signs campaign will run during March through social media channels including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.



Police Scotland’s #GetHelpOrGetCaught campaign proactively targets men who are either already offending or at risk of offending. It features a film which challenges behaviour and asks the question: if you wouldn’t do it in the real world, why groom and abuse children in the online world?

Child Protection Committees will launch a 10-day online safety campaign via its Child Protection Scotland website and social media streams - Facebook, Instagram and Twitter ­- on 20 March. The campaign will be directed towards parents and carers and will be built around online safety messages encouraging parents to check what their children are doing online and who they are talking to.

Additional help and advice for those concerned about CSE can be found online from Police Scotland or from the National Crime Agency's CEOP command

In the last four years,  the Scottish Government has focussed extensive efforts on tackling CSE through the delivery of Scotland’s National CSE Action Plan. National action plan to tackle child sexual exploitation: final report -

Work continues through Scottish Government-supported work including Scotland's Serious Organised Crime Strategy, the Cyber Resilience Learning and Skills Action Plan, Digital Strategy, National Internet Safety Action Plan, Curriculum for Excellence, Equally Safe, the Child Protection Improvement Programme and the Joint Strategy for Policing.

The Scottish Government continues funding commitments to strengthen early intervention and prevention to better protect children and young from abuse and neglect.


Media enquiries

Back to top