Paedophiles targeting victims on live streams

Live streaming is increasingly being used to groom, blackmail and abuse victims, investigators have warned.

Police say paedophiles are using live streaming to bombard targets with comments, dares, threats or to offer rewards with the aim of convincing them to take their clothes off on a webcam.

The warning comes after 192 suspected paedophiles were arrested in just one week during a nationwide operation in October.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) said that 245 children were saved from harm as a result of the operation.

Some 30% of cases involved live streaming blackmail and grooming and 18 of those were said to be in a position of trust, including teachers, health workers or those in criminal justice.

The NCA’s head of safeguarding Zoe Hilton said: “We know that as children’s online habits change, offenders are adapting with them.

“These individuals are learning how young people communicate online and are using this knowledge to contact, befriend and abuse them.

“It’s great to see that so many parents are aware of the potential dangers children face online, but with this campaign we’re asking them to make sure they familiarise themselves with their children’s online behaviour and keep that knowledge up to date.

“Offenders will take advantage of the fact that young peoples’ inhibitions are lower online so we’re also encouraging parents to talk to their children about what a healthy relationship looks like and how to spot when someone might not be who they say they are.”

A campaign is being launched to make parents more aware of the risks faced by children due to live streaming.

Chief Constable Simon Bailey, National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for child protection, said: “We need internet companies to help us stop access to sexual abuse images and videos and prevent abuse happening on their platforms.

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“We need parents and carers to talk to their children about healthy relationships and staying safe online.”

As part of the campaign, an animation will be released online and schools will be given new guidance for parents and children on the risks posed by live streaming.