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Beware online abusers targeting young people

6 Apr 2020
  • Parents and carers warned to monitor who young people talk to online

  • Risk of exploitation increases as young people spend more time online

  • Visit our child online safety pages for advice

Hertfordshire Constabulary is warning parents and carers of young people to make sure they know who they are talking to online.

School closures mean that many young people are spending much more time online using social media platforms or gaming. Parents working from home may not be able to keep as close an eye on their online activities as they usually would.

Children motivated by boredom could start to explore new social contacts and engage with new groups or individuals and this in turn could make them vulnerable to those looking to exploit young people.

Detective Sergeant Marc Willmore, from Hertfordshire Constabulary’s Halo - Safeguarding Vulnerable Children team, said “Following our previous advice for keeping young people safe online whilst schools are closed, we want to encourage parents and carers to look for signs of loneliness and isolation in children and young people which could cause them to engage with strangers online.

“Many children and young people, unable to engage face-to-face with their friends will inevitably turn to communicating via messaging or social media platforms to keep in touch. Sometimes this can led to them feeling negative about their own situation and increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. Feeling lonely could motivate children to engage online with new groups or individuals and this in turn could make them vulnerable to perpetrators of child abuse and exploitation.”

To help young people navigate the social media landscape in a safe and positive way:

  • Encourage them to pay attention to how their use of various platforms affects their mood.
  • Suggest they try avoiding the ones that make them feel sad or anxious.
  • Talk to them regularly so that they feel relaxed and will feel comfortable speaking to you if they do have any worries.

If you're worried about something a child or young person may have experienced online, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for free support and advice on 0808 800 5000, or contact online www.nspcc.org.uk/keeping-children-safe/reporting-abuse/what-if-suspect-abuse/. Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves by calling 0800 1111 or chat with a counsellor online: www.childline.org.uk/get-support/1-2-1-counsellor-chat/  

For more advice on how to keep safe online visit our child online safety pages and follow @hertspolicehalo for regular updates from our team that tackles child exploitation.  

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