‘Urgent need’ to teach children online safety as 200 offenders arrested in one week

Increasing numbers of sex offenders are using online livestreaming platforms to exploit children, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned.

Dec 5, 2017

Increasing numbers of sex offenders are using online livestreaming platforms to exploit children, the National Crime Agency (NCA) has warned. During a week-long operation into child sexual exploitation and abuse in October, officers across the UK safeguarded 245 children and arrested 192 people – 18 of whom were in a position of trust. Almost a third of the cases involved some of the highest harm offences including streaming, blackmail and grooming. The operation revealed offenders are learning how young people communicate online and using this to befriend and abuse them. They capitalise on the immediacy of contact that live streaming provides, and offer gifts or rewards in an attempt to manipulate children into performing acts involving nudity over webcam, the NCA said. To advise parents on how to protect their children from this threat, the NCA and National Police Chiefs’ Council have launched a new campaign encouraging the discussion of concerning behaviours on live streaming platforms. The campaign includes a short animation about an adult who goes online to abuse children, to show how offenders attempt to build relationships with children. And schools across the country will be provided with sessions and activities for the class room to help empower young people to better deal with pressure and manipulation. National lead for child protection Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “In just one week, police forces and the NCA arrested 192 offenders on suspicion of child sexual abuse offences and prevented 245 children from coming to harm. We will keep working together to do this, adapting our approach so that nowhere online is safe for people out to groom children or view them being abused. “But we also need help. We need internet companies to help us stop access to sexual abuse images and videos and prevent abuse happening on their platforms. We need parents and carers to talk to their children about healthy relationships and staying safe online.” In an online NCA survey, 84 per cent of parents said they were alert to the potential dangers their children face online. However, child protection experts have warned that knowledge quickly becomes out of date as the online environment continuously evolves. The survey also showed that while the majority of parents speak to their children regularly, more than 30 per cent had not spoken about online safety in the last month, and almost 58 per cent are unsure if they have adequate online security. Zoe Hilton, head of safeguarding at the NCA, said although it is great to see so many parents are aware of the dangers, the campaign asks them to familiarise themselves with their children’s online behaviour so that knowledge is kept up to date. She added: “As well as ensuring that privacy settings are in place on the sites and apps they use, it’s so important that we have regular and open conversations with our children about being safe online and encouraging them to speak up if something is worrying them or doesn’t feel right. “Offenders will take advantage of the fact that young peoples’ inhibitions are lower online so we’re also encouraging parents to talk to their children about what a healthy relationship looks like and how to spot when someone might not be who they say they are. “Advice and guidance on having these conversations and how to report any concerns can be found on the Thinkuknow website.”

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