Could you identify child online exploitation?

This page offer practical advice for parents in Ukraine about how to keep children safe online and details of organisations that provide support.



The risks children face to exploitation online have increased since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This is due to the rise in children attending class via virtual lessons and parents having to work during the day.

The results of a recent survey revealed children and young people in Ukraine are at risk of, and are targeted for exploitation. This includes sexual exploitation and recruitment into espionage. Parents and teachers shared this opinion in survey results and comments. In addition, some parents indicated that their children had experienced potential grooming online.

Our children are being hunted by agents… children cannot understand when they are being manipulated in a game or social media chats.

Read this page to learn how to keep children safe online and how to discuss the matter with children. By understanding how to fix this problem, you will be able to protect children and young people from harm.

How can I recognise child exploitation?

A child who is being groomed or exploited may show drastic changes in behaviour, and these can all be very different, depending on the child and situation – from becoming more confident to becoming violent or more withdrawn.

If you are worried, ask your child what is going on. But remember, they might not be willing or able to talk about it.

Read more about the types of online exploitation that have been reported in Ukraine:

Online grooming is when someone uses the Internet to trick, force or pressure a young person into doing something sexual – like sending a naked video or image of themselves. This is wrong.

6 places online where grooming can happen:

  • social networking websites
  • instant messaging and live streamimg apps
  • photo sharing apps and sites, like Instagram
  • chat rooms
  • dating apps
  • online gaming sites.

Anyone can groom another person. A ‘groomer’ is someone who intentionally instigates an emotional connection with a young person to make them do things like:

  • have sexual conversations online or by text messages
  • send naked images, which is sometimes called sexting
  • send sexual videos
  • do something sexual live on webcam
  • meet up with them in person.

They might be old, or young. And they can be male or female. 

Remember if children send someone sexual photos or videos, they lose control over what happens to them. The other person may end up sharing them with other people who might then keep sharing them.

Signs of Grooming:

If a groomer is trying to get a child or young person to share sexual images or do something sexual, often they’ll:

Sexting is when people share a sexual message and/or a naked or semi-naked image, video or text message with another person. It’s also known as nude image sharing.

Children and young people may consent to sending a nude image of themselves. They can also be forced or coerced into sharing images by their peers or adults online.

If a child or young person originally shares the image consensually, they have no control over how other people might use it.

If the image is shared around peer groups it may lead to bullying and isolation.

Perpetrators of abuse may circulate a nude image more widely and use this to blackmail a child and/or groom them for further sexual abuse.

Parents should be aware of the telling signs that their teen may be sexting.

Signs of sexting include:

  • Being secretive or anxious about their phones
  • Deleting histories
  • Overreacting when you pick up their phone
  • Crying, isolation and a change in grades or behavior which may be the result of public ridicule from exposure to sexting

After the start of the war in Ukraine, law enforcement agencies exposed many cases of online exploitation of children for espionage purposes. Children were involved in the war as spies and correctors of shelling.

5 popular places where exploitation can happen:

  • social networking websites
  • photo sharing apps and sites
  • messengers (like Telegram or WhatsApp)
  • game apps
  • online gaming sites

Signs of exploitation for espionage purposes:

  • Being frightened of some people, places or situations
  • Bring secretive
  • Sharp changes in mood or character
  • Having money or things they can’t or won’t explain
  • Increased interest in making money
  • Having multiple mobile phones and sim cards
  • Use of phone that causes concern e.g multiple callers or more texts/pings than usual
  • Having many photos of the location of military equipment, road-blocks, etc. on mobile phone

Remember, such actions are illegal and dangerous. Contact the police or the Security Service of Ukraine if you suspect that your child is being recruited into espionage.

Your children may be deceived in an online game or social network and not always understand the consequences of such activities. Explain to them in advance that it is forbidden to photograph and distribute photos of any military objects.

Should I be worried even if a young person says ‘everything is fine’?

Children rarely understand themselves to be a victim of exploitation or trafficking. Remember that this is not the child’s fault, and it is not their responsibility to figure these things out. As adults, we can look out for the young people in our lives.

There are many reasons a child might not identify as a victim. Grooming, fear, denial, loyalty, shame, embarrassment, feeling trapped, and pride can all play a role.

If you feel something isn’t right, there are organisations providing free support and advice.

Details of support organisations in Ukraine

Here are organisations that can support and help you in different ways. Please mention STOP THE TRAFFIK if you contact any of the organisations listed below.

  • If your child is in immediate danger, ring the police by dialling 102. You should also contact the police if you don’t know where your child is and you’re concerned they are being exploited.
  • Cyber Police of Ukraine is a law enforcement agency within the the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine dedicated to combating cyber crime. To leave a message to employees of the Cyber Police Department, you should send an application to the e-mail address [email protected]. Phone number – 0 800 50 51 70 (Monday – Friday from 09:00 to 18:00). You can also report a crime committed using the online form on the website.

Government Hotline on Combating Trafficking in Human Beings, Prevention and Response to Domestic Violence, Gender-Based Violence and Violence against Children

Government hotline that works 24/7, free of charge, anonymously and confidentially



Ukrainian line for missing children

Free and 24/7 service to children (at risk of) going missing and their families. The 116 000 hotline operates throughout Ukraine, and calls are free for subscribers of all mobile operators. The operators of the hotline call centre are properly trained specialists - social workers and psychologists. They receive calls from parents/guardians of missing children, and provide them with the necessary psychological, legal and social support, they also receive calls from citizens who have information about a missing child.

116 000


La Strada Ukraine

La Strada Ukraine is a public human rights organisation working to ensure gender equality, peace building, prevention of gender-based violence, including domestic violence, combating human trafficking and ensuring the rights of children, promoting human rights standards in all spheres of society and the state.

+380 44 205 36 95

[email protected]


La Strada National hotline for the prevention of domestic violence, human trafficking and gender discrimination

Anonymously. Confidentially. Free. Working 24/7. Contact 116 123 or 0 800 500 335

0 800 500 335

[email protected]


La Strada National hotline for children and youth

Anonymously. Confidentially. Free. Working 24/7. Contact 116 111 or 0 800 500 225

0 800 500 225



This is the representative office of the International Organization A21 in Ukraine for the fight against human trafficking. Anyone who applied for help to A21 can receive free consultation and assistance, legal assistance, psychological support in a crisis situation, receive a one-time food kit with basic necessary items.

[email protected]


Stop Sexтинг - Psychological support line on online risks

Children and parents can directly apply for help on the website - the button at the bottom of the main page, fill out a questionnaire and receive psychological support from a #stop_sexting specialist. Consultations are confidential and free of charge / On the website #stop_sexting, you can report materials depicting sexual abuse against children. The portal works as a reporting line. These messages help protect children and prevent them from further sexual exploitation.

[email protected]


How to speak with children about online safety

Talking regularly with your child is the greatest tool to help keep them safe online. Talking regularly and making it part of daily conversation, like you would about their day at school, will help your child feel relaxed. It also means when they do have any worries, they’re more likely to come and speak to you.

Some conversations are going to be more difficult than others, but it’s so important to have these open and honest conversations, so you can help your child with any worries or issues they might be facing online.

If your child is aged 6-12, use this comic book published by anti-trafficking organisation A21 to explain how to stay safe online.

The “Staying Safe Online Comic Book” is designed to help children ages 6-12 learn about digital safety so they can better understand the dangers of interacting online. Additional comic books are designed to help children learn more about the different forms of human trafficking and safe migration.

These guides are designed to help parents of young children and teenagers start conversations about human trafficking — what it is, how to identify it, and how to prevent it.

Click on the link to download the guide.

What to do if you are thinking that your child is being exploited

If you worry your child is a victim of child exploitation, talk to someone about it. Contact their school or support organisations.

If your child is in immediate danger, ring the police by dialling 102. You should also contact the police if you don’t know where your child is and you’re concerned they are being exploited.

In order to reduce the risks of online exploitation:

  • Set your child’s social media accounts to private, and check what information people can view about your child online.
  • If suspicious messages are received, report to social media support team about accounts or videos (in the app) or block the account.

Download the STOP APP

The STOP APP enables anybody who knows, has seen or even heard a situation that they believe to be human trafficking, to talk about it in a safe and secure space. You can report the incident anonymously and securely through the STOP APP. There will be no record of the report submitted on your phone. The app is available in Ukrainian language.

Android App on Google Play Button

STOP THE TRAFFIK is a human trafficking prevention organisation. This app collects individuals’ stories of global human trafficking to disrupt and prevent this crime. We are not a rescue organisation and this app is not monitored 24/7 but will be checked on the next working day.  If anyone is in immediate danger or a crime has been committed please contact trusted authorities.

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