According to an article in The Irish Times today, a recent report from the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP) has shown that children as young as eight are being blackmailed into performing sexual acts on webcams by abusers. Police figures show that 424 children have been victims of online sexual blackmail in the last two years with 184 in the UK. The offenders involved often pose as children at first and then threaten to share naked pictures of the victim with their friends and family unless they do what they are told. The report says that a number of children are self-harming and, in one case, taking their own life as a result.
Investigators first uncovered online blackmail for abuse in 2010 in an investigation codenamed Hattie. It led in 2012 to the jailing of two Kuwaiti brothers. They had targeted 110 children, including 78 in the UK, and forced them into performing sex acts online.
How can we prevent this happening to our children? Parental monitoring of online use is key to helping prevent our children from being targeted. Obviously we can’t stand over our children when they are online but we can help by encouraging them to only use their laptops in high traffic areas in the house, where it’s easier to keep an eye on them. Don’t forget about the smartphones though as abusers often use instant messaging to contact victims – it was used in a third of cases in the last year.