Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, is encouraging parents to look out for signs of online grooming amidst the COVID-19 breakout.
Over the Easter Holiday and during the lockdown, children are spending more time online making them more vulnerable to being groomed by predators. These criminals often use a fake profile, known as catfishing, or bribe young people using desirable objects such as money, toys and electronics.
Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said: “During the lockdown everyone is spending more time indoors and online, including criminals.
“Criminals are adapting with the changes in technology and using it to their advantage to enter homes and bank accounts without leaving the comfort of their home – we all need to be more vigilant about who and what we trust online.
“For younger children, I would also recommend parents check their child’s online activity to understand what they are accessing and ensuring they are on child friendly sites and apps.
“I would encourage parents to speak to their children and teenagers about online safety and to remind them to never speak to a stranger online.
“Online grooming is a very serious and real issue that the Police deal with so it’s essential we all do our best to make sure our children are safe – if you know a stranger is contacting your child online or know of someone contacting underage children please report it to 101 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
“All reports will be taken seriously. If anyone wants more information on online safety please visit https://www.getsafeonline.org/ or for more information on online grooming visit https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-is-child-abuse/types-of-abuse/grooming/.”
Detective Inspector Ian Harwood said: “During this period and over the holidays people, and possibly children will be spending a lot more time online.
“It is important that parents and carers talk to children about staying safe online and encourage them to be open about what they are doing online.
“There are also settings on devices that can be utilised such as parent controls, but it’s important that they are aware of the dangers.
“One important area to take particular care with is the use of chat rooms and instant messaging. It is vital we help children to understand the importance of knowing that they should only chat with others they definitely know. Strangers met online may not be who they say they are.
“I would urge parents, carers, family members and friends to be vigilant and inquisitive. Talk to the children you know, help them to understand and if you have any concerns, please report them to the police using 101.”