Police warning as 11-year-olds targeted by online predators

18/11/20- Anonymous child on phone in living room for west-PA Images
Lockdown means children are spending more time online. Credit: PA Images

Avon and Somerset police are urging parents to be aware of their children's online activity.

It follows a recent increase in reports of young children falling victim to sexual predators who target them online.

Some of the recent incidents according to the force have included:

  • An 11-year-old contacted via Roblox and threatened that their family would be harmed if they didn't send sexual videos

  • Two 12-year-olds targeted via Snapchat, by a predator posing as a classmate, who coerced and threatened them into supplying sexual pictures

  • A 14-year-old who believed they were 'in a relationship' with a 19-year-old over Instagram. The '19-year-old' was in fact an older person who had convinced the child they were in love.

  • A 14-year-old threatened with violence if they didn't send images

Detective Chief Inspector Larisa Hunt, lead for Avon and Somerset Police’s internet child abuse and child exploitation team Operation Topaz said: “With the second national lockdown upon us and so much of our lives being moved online, it is more important than ever that we support children to use the internet safely.

"The recent reports of younger children being targeted should be a wakeup call to all those parents who think their kids are only playing with their friends online.

"I know this might feel like yet another thing you have to do and that parents are already juggling many tasks. And whilst it’s tempting to let your children disappear off to their bedrooms on their screens, I would urge that you please talk to your children about online safety."

Police say they need parents help to keep children safe. Credit: PA Images

Apps parents have been asked to research include OnlyFans, Among us, Omegle and Tinder as places children may fall victim to sexual predators.

The force recommends the following for parents and children in order to remain safe online:

  • Children should have access online to age appropriate apps / content and appropriate parental controls and supervision should be applied  

  • Keep your personal stuff private and think about what you say and do online

  • Block people who send nasty messages and don’t open unknown links and attachments

  • Flag up with someone you trust if anything upsets you, makes you feel uncomfortable or if someone asks to meet you offline

The following sites and resources are also recommended for information on online safety.

  • Common Sense Media – this is a review site for parents by parents, to learn more about apps / movies / TV / games and also has reviews from young people.

  • Internet Matters – for guides on how to enable and set up privacy settings for apps/games

  • National Crime Agency’s Think You Know campaign has resources that parents can use as part of home schooling their children

  • https://www.saferinternet.org.uk/ - online safety tips for children

  • https://www.childnet.com/  - dedicated to making the internet a safe place for children

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