Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, is urging parents to check their children’s online activity and speak to their kids around what is and isn’t appropriate to share on the internet.
The darker and colder weather is approaching with the clocks having turned back at the weekend just past. With this seasonal change, more children will be spending more time indoors and on tablets, phones, laptops etc. This increases the chance of young people being targeted by criminals trying to gain their trust for information, images and, in worst case scenarios, to meet up in person.
Cumbria Constabulary’s Cyber and Digital Crime Unit, funded by the Police and Crime Commissioner, conducted 87 investigations of online child sexual exploitation in the last 12 months. A large amount of these crimes took place on KIK (20%), Snapchat (19%) and Facebook (9%). The criminals will often befriend the children and their friends on social media so it will look like it is someone they can trust as they have mutual friends and give compliments and often offer to buy them gifts like virtual gaming money such as V Bucks on Fortnite or FIFA points to gain their trust. Once trust is gained, the criminal will start to ask for nude images. Snapchat has an accurate location map that can show exactly where someone lives, children should turn this to ghost mode to avoid being tracked.
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “Cyber-crime is advancing rapidly and the best way to avoid being targeted by these criminals is to understand the risks, protect ourselves as best we can and highlight these dangers to our loved ones.
“No one wants to see their child become a victim of online child sexual exploitation which is why it’s so important that we, as parents, talk to our children about the risks and why we shouldn’t share personal information online.
“Several tips can help further protect children online such as setting clear rules like: only accepting friend requests from known friends and family; never sharing personal information such as which school they attend or their address; and setting a limit on screen time.
“Get Safe Online has lots of great information around all types of cyber-crime so I would ask everyone to look at their website www.getsafeonline.org.
“If you have been targeted by a cyber-criminal or believe that your child has been in contact with someone suspicious then I would urge you to report this to the police on 101.”
Detective Inspector Ian Harwood, Cumbria Constabulary Cyber & Digital Crime Unit, said:
“It is vital that we speak with our children on online safety and gain an understanding of their online activity.
“Offenders may encourage young people to move from a public forum, to a game, or more private chat apps or sites.
“It’s always a good idea to remind your child to be wary of people who want them to chat privately.
“Have conversations with your child about the new apps they are using and who they may be talking to.
“The Constabulary has a dedicated unit which works behind-the-scenes to tackle online offences, track offenders and keep people safe.
“Many of the crimes we deal with are unseen to the public, with offenders using online technology to commit a range of offences, including the exploitation of children.
“Our specialist officers use an extensive array of investigative techniques and strategies to identify offenders and the evidence to bring them to justice.”