Tips for keeping children safe online

Thousands of sexual predators are believed to have gone unpunished as police can only arrest them if they meet the children they groom online.

The NSPCC has called on the Government to fix what they call the 'Flaw in the Law' after figures showed child grooming cases have tripled in the last five years.

The new law would make it illegal for an adult to send a sexual communication to a child.

At least 4,000 cases of grooming young children for sex have reportedly gone unpunished because the law that has been passed to deal with the issue has been sitting in a Ministry of Justice in-tray for two years.

The Safer Internet website provides the following "SMART" advice for children and young people 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.

Children can attract the unwanted attentions of sexual predators on social networking websites. Credit: PA

Signs your child may be being groomed

The Internet Matters organisation has highlighted a number of signs to look out for that may be being groomed. Although they also emphasise that some of the behaviour can be quite commons among teenagers.

  • wanting to spend more and more time on the internet.

  • being secretive about who they are talking to online and what sites they visit.

  • switching screens when you come near the computer.

  • possessing items - electronic devices or phones - you have not given them.

  • using sexual language you wouldn’t expect them to know.

  • becoming emotionally volatile.

Parents are advised to use safety controls to restrict access to certain websites. Cr Credit: PA

Take control: Online safety tips for parents

  • Have ongoing conversations with your children about staying safe online

  • Use parental controls to restrict access to certain internet sites.

  • Make use of safety tools on social networks such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

  • Turn on safety or child modes on search engines and on websites such as YouTube.

Other useful links:

  • Childline has a 24-hour helpline on 0800 1111 or get help and advice can be found on its website.

  • Thinkuknow, is a website set up by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, and offers advice and guidance for both children and parents.

  • The Metropolitan Police Service also provideinternet safety advice.