This information has been produced by Kent County Council’s eSafety Strategy Group in response to a recent increase in reports to Kent police of children talking to and exchanging pictures with strangers online.
Videochat websites and apps like Skype, Instagram, Omegle, Oovoo, Kik, and others, allow children to talk and exchange pictures on tablets and Smartphones or via a webcam. Whilst talking on webcam with known and trusted friends and family can be fun and exciting, children can be at risk of bullying and also abuse. Children and young people sharing pictures and videos online are vulnerable to exploitation. This can happen in the following way:
• An offender makes contact with a young person online through an app, chatroom or game.
• The offender begins a conversation and tricks the young person into sending them an indecent picture on a webcam. They can trick them by pretending to be of the same age, someone the child knows, flirting with them or sending them inappropriate pictures or videos.
• The offender records or captures the picture and they then threaten to show it to others if they do not continue to respond.
This has happened to young people and is being reported in Kent and beyond with children of both Primary and Secondary school age. This is online abuse.
What to do if this happens
When a child tells a parent they have experienced on or offline abuse parents should react calmly and always:
• Believe their child and tell them that they believe them.
• Not blame them, it is not their fault, the person responsible is the offender.
• Keep calm and talk to their child about how they feel and let them know that they’re here to listen.
• Report the concern to Kent Police via 101 or use 999 if there is immediate risk to someone’s safety. www.kent.police.uk/internetsafety
• You can also report to CEOP, a national agency that tackle exploitation of children and young people. For information, advice and to report concerns directly to CEOP, visit www.ceop.police.uk
• Be aware that offenders may sometimes be targeting and abusing multiple children online. Your child may possibly be one of many victims and reporting online suspicious activity may help protect many children.
How to stop it happening
• Set appropriate parental controls and use filters for home computers and devices (such as games consoles, tablets and Smart Phones)
• Talk to your child about what they are doing online and ask them to show you the apps and sites they use.
• Ensure your child understands how anyone can copy and share images or messages posted online and the importance of keeping their personal information and images safe
• Ensure that privacy settings and age restrictions are discussed and in place for the websites and apps that your child uses.
• Ensure that you and your child know how to block and report unwanted images and messages
• Ensure you know how to report abuse online.
If you are worried that your child is at risk of harm or a criminal offence has been committed then you can report your concerns to Kent Police or Children’s Social Care For further advice visit www.nspcc.org.uk/onlinesafety, www.childnet.com www.internetmatters.org.uk or www.thinkuknow.co.uk