Essex County Council: Parents and carers advised to remain vigilant to signs of online exploitation over the summer

News / Mon 4th Jul 2022 at 11:16am

AS the summer holidays approach and more time is spent outside, away from technology, online safety may be far from people’s minds. 

However, we know devices and smartphones are rarely left behind and child exploitation doesn’t disappear for the summer. 

Parents and carers must remain aware of their child’s internet use over the summer – as much as any other time of year. 

Children may see friends less over the holidays due to other family commitments and if feeling isolated they may turn increasingly to their devices. 

This could increase the risk of online harms such as grooming, accessing inappropriate gaming and chat forums, as well as affecting their emotional wellbeing.

From the 11-17 July the Essex Safeguarding Children Board (ESCB) and partners are encouraging people across Essex to take part in sharing messages across social media. 

The 2 Johns are hosting two online training sessions for professionals and parents on 11 July covering the latest trends in internet use in young people and how to keep children safe online. Anyone interested can find out more on the ESCB website.

The week of activity will also cover topics including youth involved sexual images and online safety for pre-schoolers, giving parents and carers the information they need to support their child to safely navigate the online world, whether they are primary age or secondary age.

The ESCB website has resources for parents, carers and professionals including podcasts, videos, how to report concerns and information about spotting the signs of exploitation. 

Signs of exploitation include a young person having more money, being secretive or getting taxis everywhere, as well as receiving online commodities such as game currency and other gifts within games. 

It is important to remember exploitation is not the child’s fault and they are never to blame. 

By creating a supportive environment, where online safety is discussed in the same way as road safety or stranger danger, children will feel more able to speak openly about concerns they may have. 

David Archibald, ESCB Independent Chair/Facilitator on behalf of the Statutory Partners, said: “Raising awareness of exploitation is vital throughout the year and the summer holidays are no exception. 

“Online exploitation is a terrible crime which can have a significant impact on the lives of the individuals, families and communities involved. 

“I am pleased that we are continuing this campaign, along with our partners, to support parents and carers to recognise the signs of exploitation, which are often hidden. 

“Together we can support young people and families to be aware of the dangers and know where to go if they’re concerned.” 

Concerns about child exploitation can be reported anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555111. 

There is also a dedicated Police Child Exploitation hotline – for parents, carers and members of the public to seek advice around concerns they may have about their own or other children with regards to criminal and sexual exploitation: 01245 452058.

Notes to Editors:

The Essex Safeguarding Children Board website has resources for parents and carers as well as professionals to enable them to fully support children and parents. People can also follow the campaign on the ESCB Facebook pageand Twitter account.

Organisations involved:

The 2 Johns specialise in delivering bespoke Child Sexual Exploitation Training to professionals, parents and children, with an aim to totally change the perception that everyone has of ‘Stranger Danger’.

The Children’s Society, whose CARE (Children At Risk of Exploitation) service works with children and young adults in Essex who are at risk of sexual and criminal exploitation, with partners Barnardo’s offering family support. 

The Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service brings together a range of children’s community services. Provided by Virgin Care in partnership with Barnardo’s on behalf of Essex County Council and the NHS. 

The Essex Violence and Vulnerability Unit support direct work with young people at risk of violence, provide training and development to those who are on the front line and raise awareness with the general public about the dangers of County Lines.

Essex Brook is part of Brook a leading Sexual Health and Wellbeing Charity for young people, with over 55 years’ experience.

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