Parents in Cumbria are being urged to learn how to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
A conference will take place on Thursday to raise awareness of CSE among professionals working with children as well as providing key information and advice to members of the public.
"Most sexually exploited children live at home when the abuse starts, but according to a recent YouGov survey only half of parents say they are confident that they would be able to tell the difference between indicators of CSE and challenging teenage behaviour.
Engaged and informed parents are essential in tackling this abuse. It is parents and carers who will often be the first to notice the signs and who are in a position to intervene early, gather information and work in partnership with safeguarding professionals to support the child."
Police say increasingly children are on social media sites and applications, often unsupervised and can cause problems like indecent images of children/young people being circulated, to online grooming.
What are the signs you need to know?
- Repeatedly going missing – particularly overnight
- Coming home with unaccounted gifts, i.e. clothes, money, food.
- Excessive and secret use of internet and /or mobile phone
- Alcohol/Substance misuse/unexplained injuries
- Losing contact with family and friends of their own age
What makes a child more at risk?
- If they come from a chaotic or household/history of domestic abuse or neglect
- A lack of friends in the same age group/low self esteem
- Confused about sexuality
- Learning disabilities
- Have suffered a recent bereavement or loss