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London - Parents must monitor their children’s Facebook accounts to protect them from online predators, a top child protection expert has said.
The deputy children’s commissioner said parents should stop children uploading pictures of themselves kissing, showing their flesh or wearing any sort of revealing outfit.
Sue Berelowitz threw her weight behind calls for greater family control of online risks by saying that parents should warn their children that once a picture is online, there is a danger it will be shared with anyone from classmates to strangers.
It comes after David Cameron’s adviser on childhood said parents should insist on seeing their children’s texts and internet exchanges.
Claire Perry MP said parents should challenge the ‘bizarre’ idea that their children have the right to keep messages private.
Speaking ahead of Safter Internet Day, Berelowitz warned: ‘Parents need to think carefully about social network sites because there is an awful lot of stuff circulating on there.
‘They should be concerned about their children putting stuff on there – anything sexual, such as kissing, showing their bodies, exposing any flesh. It could attract undue attention and it could get shared.
‘It is important that children understand about the safe use of social networking sites and don’t talk to certain types of people.
‘There is a lot that parents can and should be doing.’
She made the comments as police highlighted a Birmingham University study showing that children whose parents take little interest in their online activity are at higher risk of becoming a victim of grooming. The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre said it was receiving increasing numbers of reports of paedophiles grooming children over the internet for the sole purpose of sexual abuse online – for example via webcam.
In 2012 there were 1,145 public reports relating to incidents of online grooming – or three a day.
The centre warned that offenders may target hundreds of children at a time and that once contact is made, threats and intimidation are likely to follow soon after. It added that children who are groomed into performing sexual acts online can feel ashamed that they lost control, desperate or even suicidal.
Berelowitz said: ‘Parents should talk to young people about their online friends, just as they would talk to them about their school friends.
‘If children are worried about something that has happened online, they should be listened to and never be made to feel guilty about raising their concerns.’ - Daily Mail