An online campaign has begun to make young people aware of the sexual exploitation risks behind chat forums and interactive platforms.
Police, local authorities and children’s safeguarding boards across West Yorkshire have come together to produce a series of messages which highlight the dangers.
Web, Facebook and Twitter posts will be released which feature an image of two teenagers in an online conversation. The graphic then reveals that one of them is actually a sexual predator and not the person they are purporting to be.
West Yorkshire Police, Assistant Chief Constable, Geoff Dodd said it is vital that young people are educate about the dangers they face when online:
“This is another strand of the child sexual exploitation campaign ‘Know the Signs’ which is specifically tailored towards young people. Chat forums and interactive platforms in particular, present risks which make them susceptible to this type of crime,” said Chief Constable Dodd.
“Some young people engage with strangers online, not knowing who they are talking to, their age or their intentions. Sexual predators use online forums to groom their victims and it is imperative that our young people understand these dangers.
“Often offenders use false accounts, fake photos, and names to deceive their victims, encouraging them to meet with the intention of committing a sexual offence.
“The messages which we have posted across our websites and social media will direct users to an online page which features key information and advice. www.westyorkshire.police.uk/who-r-u-talking-2
“We have intentionally launched this campaign during the school holidays, as many will undoubtedly be spending a lot of time on social media, apps and other conversation mediums.
“Some of the county’s shopping centres will be displaying the graphics on electronic screens. Police officers and PCSOs will also be speaking to young people in cities and towns, bringing their attention to these important messages.
“Parents continue to play a key role, and we would encourage them to take an interest in what their children are doing online and who they are speaking to.
“Likewise, I would urge them to view our dedicated CSE webpage to help them recognise the indicators of Child Sexual Exploitation http://www.westyorkshire.police.uk/cse
“By working together with the public and our partners, we can raise awareness and close the net around those behind these horrendous crimes.
“If you have been subject to Child Sexual Exploitation, know somebody who has, or have information about those involved in this crime, please contact the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”
West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson said: “We must help young people to realise the hidden dangers of online interactive platforms and the potential connections with child sexual exploitation. Protecting our communities from this terrible crime remains one of the top priorities in my refreshed Police and Crime Plan and I fully support this targeted campaign.
“By giving young people the tools to make informed decisions and identify the tell-tale signs, keeping them safe and feeling safe.”