Warning to parents as paedophiles increasingly target children on live streams

The NCA said they had saved 245 children by making 192 arrests. Credit: PA

Sex offenders are increasingly using live video streaming platforms online to groom, blackmail and abuse their victims - many of who are children.

In just one week in October, nearly 200 suspected paedophiles were arrested in a UK-wide operation.

These 192 arrests, the National Crime Agency (NCA) said, had saved 245 children from harm.

Nearly a third of these cases involved the most serious offences including live streaming, blackmail and grooming and 18 of those arrested were said to be in a position of trust, working in areas such as teaching, healthcare and criminal justice.

Police are warning that suspects are using live streaming to bombard their targets with comments, using dares, threats or the offer of rewards, to try and manipulate them into nudity on a webcam.

On Tuesday, the NCA and the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) launched a campaign to encourage parents to be aware of the dangers of live streaming and warn their children of the risks, as well as appealing for internet companies to do more to help.

Police are appealing for parents' help in keeping children safe online. Credit: PA

NPCC 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."

Schools will be given new material to educate children about online dangers. Credit: PA

An online survey, answered by 927 people, found 84% said they were alert to the online threats children faced but 58% are unsure if they their internet security is strong enough and 30% said they had not spoken to their child about web safety in the last month.

"We know that as children's online habits change, offenders are adapting with them," the NCA's head of safeguarding Zoe Hilton said.

"These individuals are learning how young people communicate online and are using this knowledge to contact, befriend and abuse them.

"It's great to see that so many parents are aware of the potential dangers children face online, but with this campaign we're asking them to make sure they familiarise themselves with their children's online behaviour and keep that knowledge up to date.

"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."

In a bid to better educate children about the potential dangers they may face online, an animated video will be released online, schools will be given classroom materials and new guidance for both parents and children on the risks posed by live streaming will also be available from the NCA CEOP's education programme Thinkuknow.

Talk to your child about the dangers they face online, to help keep them safe. Credit: PA

How to keep your children safe online:

  • Make sure they know they should not share personal information with strangers.

  • Block both pop ups and spam emails, turn off in-app purchasing on devices where possible.

  • Discuss with your child the importance of reporting inappropriate conversations, messages, images and behaviours.

  • If your child is the victim of cyberbullying, this can also be reported online and offline.

  • Explore online together - Ask your children to show you what they like to do online, and show an interest.

  • Check if any of their apps have the geo-location enabled, and if so, turn it off, as it shares their location unintentionally.

  • Know who your child is talking to. Children may not think of strangers online as strangers – they may think of them as online friends. Explain it’s easy for people to lie about who they are online.

  • Become "friends" with your child on social networks to allow you to see what they are posting.

  • Explain how you can use privacy settings to make sure only approved friends can see posts and images on social media.

  • Agree boundaries and set rules about when and for how long they can go online, the websites they can visit,and how to treat people online.

  • Show them how to report offensive comments or block people who upset them.

  • Check the age ratings on the games they play or videos they watch, and make sure websites and social networks are suitable.

  • Use parental controls - Internet Service Providers provide controls to restrict content, and many electronic devices such as laptops and smartphones allow you to do the same.

  • Remind them about privacy and make sure they are not sharing sensitive information online and tell them what to do if they are contacted by someone they don’t know.