Thames Valley Police issues warning following an increase in reports of online child sexual offences
Thames Valley Police has issued a warning to parents and carers following an increase in reports of online child sexual offences.
With the new government restrictions in place, many children are spending more time online to stay in touch with friends and loved ones as well as a way to stay entertained.
Thames Valley Police is aware that some criminals are using these extraordinary circumstances as a way to exploit and target young people when they are online.
Thames Valley Police issued the following statement, which said: "We will not tolerate anyone who seeks to exploit children, and officers are issuing a warning to parents and children of the signs to be on the lookout for, as well as to criminals who are seeking to use the change in circumstances for their own gain."
M40 closure in south Warwickshire is expected to cause delays on the edge of Banbury
Fairport wraps up a fantastic, sun-soaked Cropredy after 17,000 come to Banburyshire for the UK's most peaceful festival
Crowds get acclimatised as Cropredy festival heats up and the music is scorching
Fire at Hook Norton destroys a number of sheds - firefighters renew appeals for care in dry weather
Man seriously injured in crash near Banbury - Police make witness appeal. Warwickshire man arrested
In March, reports of online child sexual abuse in the Thames Valley were 146 per cent higher than the number of reports received in March 2019.
Online sexual abuse is any type of sexual abuse that happens on the web, whether through social networks, online gaming or using mobile phones. In some cases this involves children being groomed or exploited by an adult.
The signs of online sexual abuse can be hard to spot and in these unprecedented times it is possible that these changes in behaviour may be mistakenly attributed to the change of circumstance or routine in which we all find ourselves.
Detective Chief Inspector Matt Darnell of the Thames Valley Police Protecting Vulnerable People unit, said: “Any child or young person that uses the internet or has a smartphone could be a victim of online sexual abuse and they can be at risk from people they know, as well as from strangers.
“Many young people are incredibly computer literate, have their own smart devices and games consoles and will be using the internet to stay in touch with friends whilst we all stay at home.
"But, those they are speaking to online may not be who they say they are and they can leave themselves vulnerable to those who will manipulate and groom children into what they feel is a trusting relationship.
“Whilst at home, I encourage parents and carers to take a look at the free online activity packs on the Thinkuknow website. These resources are released fortnightly from the NCA’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection command to support during the closure of schools during COVID-19. They contain two 15-minute activities, tailored to a number of different age groups and are focused on improving online safety.
“I also urge you to have a conversation with your children about privacy settings and ensure that they are secure on the apps and social networks that they are using.
“People who attempt to exploit children on line are very serious criminals, and we want to send a message to them that this type of offending will never be tolerated.
“These are extraordinary times, but our message remains the same as always – if you attempt to exploit children on the internet, you will be caught, brought to justice and will face severe consequences for your actions.”
If you are concerned for the safety of a child, call Thames Valley Police on 101, or the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.
If you’re concerned about the sexual behaviour of an adult or a child, call 101 or the Stop it Now helpline on 0808 1000 900.
*A message from the Banbury Guardian Editor:
Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.
In order for us to continue to provide high quality and trusted local news on this free-to-read site, I am asking you to also please purchase a copy of our newspaper when you do your weekly shop.
Our journalists are highly trained and our content is independently regulated by IPSO to some of the most rigorous standards in the world. But being your eyes and ears comes at a price. So we need your support more than ever to buy our newspapers during this crisis.
With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our local valued advertisers - and consequently the advertising that we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you helping us to provide you with news and information by buying a copy of our newspaper.