Posted: 11 February 2020

Safer Internet Day: how much do you know about online exploitation and the gaming world?

All children can be victims of bullying, abuse and online exploitation when they go on the internet. The large number of young people with mobile phones who communicate on social media platforms can become a target for perpetrators of crimes against children.

Platforms such as online gaming, social media, messaging and live streaming are often used as vehicles for grooming and exploitation. Law enforcement agencies do their best to identify offenders and protect child victims but we could do more as a society to understand the risk of using the internet and going online.

Our Prevention Team, who work on preventing and lowering incidences of child sexual abuse and exploitation, child criminal exploitation, modern day slavery and human trafficking, have created a guide outlining the risks of being online and what to do if you’re concerned.

What is online grooming?

Online grooming is the act of developing a relationship with a child to enable their abuse and exploitation both online and offline.

What is online exploitation?

Online exploitation is when an individual or group use online platforms to take advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual and/or criminal activity that can occur online and offline.

 

Here we concentrate on the dangers of online gaming and how we can take steps to protect children.

What are the risks of online gaming?

  • Anyone can adopt any identity so it’s not always possible to know who your child is talking to online.
  • Young people see losing online possessions and credit as upsetting as losing their possessions in the real world.
  • People can access online accounts and steal/delete online credit and possessions to coerce/blackmail others into criminal or sexual acts.
  • Whilst playing online, young people may be manipulated into sharing sensitive information or images.
  • Online gaming platforms can be used to send money or gifts to groom and exploit.

What are the signs of online grooming?

What to do if you think your child is being exploited online

If you think your child is being exploited or may be at risk, make sure you let them know they can talk to you about anything they’re worried about. Listen to them and don’t dismiss their experiences or get angry if they tell you something concerning. Victims of internet crimes are not uncommon.

When buying games, check the content and online features. Is it appropriate? Can you use privacy and parental controls? Can you turn location settings off?

Further information on online grooming and exploitation of children

For more practical advice and tips on how to start the conversation with a young person and protect them from harm, see the online grooming and exploitation cards designed by our Prevention Team.

If you are concerned about something you’ve seen online, whether that's online bullying, indecent images or evidence of child abuse, let police and law enforcement know on 101 or let Child Exploitation Online Protection (COEP) know.

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