Mobiles. Websites. Social media. Gaming. Forums. Apps. There are now more ways for your child to play, learn or stay in touch with friends than ever before. But there are also more dangers.

The more you’re aware of these dangers and the steps you can take to avoid them, the more you’ll protect your child from the threat of sexual exploitation. 

 

The dangers

 

Being approached by offenders

New technologies make it much easier for people with a sexual interest in children to contact their victim directly. Often, they do this by pretending to be someone much younger than they really are.

Without you knowing, they may make contact with your child, gain their trust, then ask them to send photos of themselves naked or in a state of undress. Once they have those pictures, they can use them to force or blackmail your child into sending or doing more, threatening to share or expose the photos if they don’t do as they’re told.

How to protect your child

There are a number of things you can do to help prevent your child being spotted and targeted by offenders. You can change their phone settings to withhold their number when they make a call. You can set parental controls on their internet enabled devices to restrict what they can and can’t watch online. And you can make sure their social media accounts are private so that their posts can only be seen by people you or they approve.

Also, try to encourage your child to talk to you if they’re ever in doubt of something that someone is asking them to say or do online. Letting your child know about other sources of support like Childline, is also helpful.

Talking about sex and relationships online

Being curious about bodily changes, relationships and sex is all part of growing up. It’s natural that your child might look for answers and reassurance online. What they might find however is that as well as getting the information they seek they also unintentionally attract the attention of a potential abuser.

Watching age appropriate content

Exploring the internet is a great way for children to learn and develop. But it’s important to set boundaries on what content they can and can’t see. That way, there’s less risk of them stumbling across a website that’s inappropriate for their age – and less chance of a potential abuser spotting and approaching them.

How to protect your child

Setting parental controls on what content your child can and can’t see online reduces the risk that they may come across something they shouldn’t see or read. If they want to watch something that you think is inappropriate for their age, why not explain to them why and agree to review things as they get older? Check that games or DVDs are suitable – look for the film classification or the PEGI rating on the box. PEGI and the British Board of Film Classification both have search facilities on their websites where you can check what’s in a film or game before allowing your child to watch or play.

Alternatively, if you’re unsure about what your child is watching or doing online, ask them to show you their favourite or newest website or forum. That way, you get a better idea of what they’re interested in – and a chance to check whether you think it’s appropriate.

Learn more about how to keep your child safe online here.