Online Child Exploitation is a growing issue, highlighted even more in recent months during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The internet and social media has become so integral to our daily lives, as we socialise and work online. For children, the internet has become the new classroom and playground. Sadly there are people out there that take advantage of this.
The resources and information on this page aim to help you understand the way your children view the digital world. A world that, to them, is being more and more their reality.
It is important to remember that the child, is NEVER to blame and is the victim. Online groomers can be very persuasive and children should never be made to feel they did anything to encourage their exploitation. The best response an adult can provide a child who has been a victim of online exploitation is to comfort them, be supportive and help them address the issues they have encountered.
And of course, it is not just about when things go wrong. You can help your child to stay safe by creating an environment in which they feel able to speak openly about concerns they may have. You can do this my making good internet habits a part of your daily lives by limiting screen time, no devices at dinnertime/bedtime and by taking an active interest in the games that they are playing.
Perpetrators are increasingly targeting children and young people via online gaming sites, pretending to be someone who they are not. This can often lead to bullying, grooming and sexual exploitation. The Breck Foundation is a self-funding charity, raising awareness of playing safe whilst on the internet.
CEOP’s Thinkuknow has launched Band Runner, an interactive game for 8-10 year olds to help build their knowledge, confidence and skills to stay safe from risks they might encounter online. The game is hosted on the area for 8-10 year olds on the Thinkuknow website.
There is no ‘usual’ stereotype, any young person could send a nude picture, even your child. Make sure they understand that it is illegal to send nudes, even of themselves. And if it happens, try to understand whether there is peer pressure or grooming involved.
Taking, making, sharing and possessing indecent images and pseudo-photographs (an image made by computer graphics, which appears to be a photograph) of people under 18 is illegal. It does not matter how old they look, looking at indecent images of under 18s is illegal.
The Home Office has published guidance to help young people understand the law on making and sharing indecent images of people under 18 years-old. There are also short films that demonstrate the serious harm that viewing indecent images of children can cause, including the Is She Legal? video.
Videos and livestreams
Livestreaming is becoming a very popular way for young people to broadcast themselves on many different apps, to communicate with their friends or wider community. just as their favorite celebrities and Vloggers do. Make sure your children understand the risks of livestreaming:-
- They cannot be edited.
- You cannot erase what people have already seen
- Personal information might be given away by things said during the stream, things shown on camera or even in the background.
- Livestreams can be recorded by others, who can then keep a copy even after the stream has ended or expired.
All About Apps
With children spending more and more time online over the last few months, there has been an explosion in popularity of certain apps and games. TikTok has soared in popularity in recent months, with many celebrities getting involved with dances and challenges. If your child is using the app, make sure you know the risks involved and how to change privacy settings to private.
NSPCC’s NetAware has lots of information on how to make your child’s social media secure and a detailed description of the most popular apps, sites and games. This printable guide from the Children’s Society also has a list of the most popular sites and apps.
Advice for Parents and Carers
As you would protect your child in the real world, you will want to make sure that they are safe whatever they are doing, like learning to cross the road, online.
Online safety skills are skills for life. If your child understands the risks and can make sensible and informed choices online, they can get the most from the internet and stay safe whilst doing so – particularly from those people who might seek them out to harm them.
Where to start?
- One of the easiest – and most effective – things you can do is simply talk to your child.
- Help your child think about who sees what they share, and compare it to what they would be happy to share offline. Explain how everything they share online – like user names, images and comments – builds up a picture of who they are.
- Agree on some ground rules together – which sites and apps can be used; when it is okay to use the internet; what parental controls will you use?
- Remember that you can use technical tools like parental controls and filters. Ensure that your child knows about privacy settings on social media apps.
- Safety starts with you. You can help your child by simply setting a good example online. It’s important to show them what safe sharing looks like.
- Innocent searches sometimes reveal not so innocent results. Parental controls can be used to block this upsetting or harmful content, control in-app purchases or manage how long your child spends online. And the good news is parental controls are really easy to set up.
“What’s your favorite game? Can I play?”
“Can you show me your favorite TikTok dance/YouTube video?”
“Have you got online friends? How do you know who they are?”
“What do you think is ok for a child your age to be going?” (So they feel involved in the decision making)
Showing an interest in your child’s online life will help them feel they are able to come to you with any concerns they may have.
The NSPCC have teamed up with 02 to provide excellent information and advice for parents, as well as a free online safety helpline. They have also produced an app/site, on which they have reviewed the most popular apps and websites young people are using; including age ratings and how easy it is to report a problem: www.net-aware.org.uk. Parents can also choose to sign up to the Net-aware newsletter, for up-to-date information via e-mail.
The NSPCC has a campaign called ‘Share Aware’ to help your child stay safe on social networks, apps and games. Their downloadable ‘A parents’ guide to being Share Aware’ is particular useful for parents of children aged 8-12, who are starting to do more online.
Think u know: www.thinkuknow.co.uk
Think U Know is an education programme provided from the National Crime Agency’s CEOP Command. It has a range of useful information and advice for parents and carers about keeping their child safe online and advice if you are concerned about your child.
Internet Matters: www.internetmatters.org
Internet Matters is a not-for-profit organisation working with online safety experts to provide advice and information for parents to keep their children safe online.
It has an excellent interactive tool which guides you step by step through setting up parental controls on all the different devices in your home, as well as video tutorials about specific topics of concern.
UK Safer Internet Centre: www.saferinternet.org.uk
UK Safer Internet Centre is a collaborative organisation which provides a wide variety of advice and guidance on online safety. Their website is predominantly aimed at professionals and schools, but their parent guides to technology and social media checklists are valuable resources to share with parents or link to on the school website: www.swgfl.org.uk/products-services/esafety/resources
A partner organisation of UK Safer Internet Centre, Childnet has a wealth of resources, including; leaflets, conversation starters and online storybooks; ‘Digi-ducks Big Decision’ (storybook) is available to buy from this website, or can be downloaded for free.
Get Safe Online: www.getsafeonline.org
Get Safe Online covers a lot of practical, technical information on protecting families and computers against fraud, identity theft, viruses and many other problems encountered online.
The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) are a national policing organisation which specialises in investigating grooming and sexual abuse online. Their educational website: www.thinkuknow.co.uk is suitable for children aged 4-16 and has a specific section with advice for parents/carers.
The ‘Click CEOP’ report button provides a means of reporting abuse online and can be downloaded onto the school website for easy access.