UK agency warns parents to be vigilant and talk to their children about the dangers
Children are increasingly being groomed by paedophiles on the internet, according to the UK Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).
The agency received 1,145 online abuse reports in 2012, of which 7% involved people attempting to meet a child after contacting them online. Ceop has urged parents to be alert over what it called an "alarming new trend" of online abuse, and advised them to talk to their children about the issue.
The study also revealed that internet predators may also target several children at a time, while initial contact can rapidly move forward into threats and bullying.
Ceop chief executive Peter Davies said that there has actually been a drop in the amount of grooming with a view to meeting offline: "The growth area seems to be grooming, contact, and then sexual abuse purely online. We really need to make sure that young people are target hardened [sic] against that," Davies said.
"It's amazing, the number of parents I meet who would not think twice about talking to their kids about just about anything else that is risky - but have a blind spot about online."
Paedophiles often conduct online sexual abuse through webcams, instant messenger applications and social networking sites.