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Parents are warned about the rise of online child grooming and how to prevent it

More than 12,000 online child grooming cases have been reported in 2018 Credit: PA

Parents are being shown how to spot the signs of online grooming after a huge rise in the number of children being contacted by paedophiles.

Police say there have already been more than 12,000 reported cases of online child grooming this year alone and parents are now being shown how to protect their children.

The NSPCC says online child sexual exploitation happens when young people are forced or persuaded to send or post send or post sexually explicit images of themselves or take part in sexual activities via a webcam, smartphone, text message or online conversation.

Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.

– NSPCC

Grooming happens when the person gains the trust of a child or the child's family. The NSPCC says examples of how groomers gain trust include:

  • pretending to be someone they are not
  • offering advice or understanding
  • buying gifts
  • giving the child attention
  • taking them on trips, outings or holidays

Earlier this year, the UK Safer Internet Centre created a range of resources including quizzes, games and films to help children learn about internet safety. The centre says young people should think "SMART" when using the internet:

SAFE: Keep safe by being careful not to give out personal information when you’re chatting or posting online. Personal information includes your email address, phone number and password.

MEET: Meeting someone you have only been in touch with online can be dangerous. Only do so with your parents’ or carers’ permission and even then only when they can be present. Remember online friends are still strangers even if you have been talking to them for a long time.

ACCEPTING: Accepting emails, messages, or opening images or texts from people you don’t know or trust can lead to problems - they may contain viruses or nasty messages.

RELIABLE: Someone online might lie about who they are and information on the internet may not be true. Always check information by looking at other websites, in books, or with someone who knows. If you like chatting online it’s best to only chat to your real world friends and family.

TELL: Tell a parent, carer or a trusted adult if someone, or something, makes you feel uncomfortable or worried, or if you or someone you know is being bullied online.

Anyone who is concerned that their child may be being groomed is urged to contact the police on 101. Advice and support is also available at NSPCC or Childline.