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Paedophiles targeting girls on socialnetworking sites for webcam sex'

By FnF Desk | PUBLISHED: 27, Aug 2012, 22:00 pm IST | UPDATED: 28, Aug 2012, 10:09 am IST

Paedophiles targeting girls on socialnetworking sites for webcam sex'

*Social networking sites make children vulnerable to paedophiles Reports of inappropriate behaviour rise to more than 1,000 a month – up from just 400 a few years ago

Paedophiles are increasingly using social networking sites to groom girls and encourage them to perform sex acts on webcams.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre said it was receiving more and more reports that older men were targeting vulnerable girls on sites such as Facebook.

In a report on ‘emerging threats’, the watchdog said they were building friendships with the youngsters, before initiating ‘sexually exploitative acts’ such as persuading them to take revealing pictures of themselves.  Monitor: Children must be on their guard as paedophiles have taken to social network sites looking for victims  Worrying: Paedophiles are taking advantage of social media to groom youngsters Some of the paedophiles set up profiles pretending to be much younger than they are to lure girls into a false sense of security. And because Facebook does not properly verify the age of youngsters who join up, it means that pre-teens with pages on the site could be at risk of being groomed.

Campaigners believe the easy availability of porn online  means that young teenage girls increasingly see overtly sexual behaviour as normal – meaning they are more likely to fall victim to paedophiles.

The Daily Mail is campaigning for an automatic block on online porn to protect children. Over-18s would only be able to see adult images if they specifically ‘opt-in’, after going through a stringent age verification process.  More...Facebook updates its system so that deleted photos are gone forever

CEOP, which exists to protect children online, has seen the number of reports of inappropriate behaviour rise to more than 1,000 a month – up from just 400 a few years ago.

 Action needed: Dr Zoe Hilton, Head of Safeguarding at CEOP has said 'children are taking risks Zoe Hilton, head of safeguarding at CEOP, said: ‘Children are making themselves vulnerable to adult offenders who seek to talk to them, establish a relationship with them and get them to do things they are not comfortable with.

‘Children take risks and can be quite naive. It can be exciting for them to chat to people they did not know before. Many are on social networking sites where they like to share personal information.

‘Hardened paedophile groomers are often quite skilled at getting children to do things they do not want to do, especially since the rise of the webcam. All computers are webcam-enabled now.

‘They persuade children to go on the webcam and expose themselves, persuade them to send pictures. It can be the first hook to meeting and further grooming.’ She added: ‘A lot of children are online now. It is part of their life and growing up, so all the sexual experimentation our generation did offline, they feel natural doing online.’

The issue of Facebook grooming was highlighted in a ‘threat assessment’ carried out by CEOP over the summer, which warned offenders were coercing children into performing ‘harmful and degrading sexual activity online’.

It concluded: ‘Whilst grooming children for sexual purposes is not new, the use of sometimes subtle social engineering techniques to this end appears to be a relatively recent phenomenon.

‘Without sufficient recognition and intervention from law enforcement, there is every likelihood that this trend will grow. With the forecasted growth of internet use across the world, particularly in developing nations, it is increasingly likely that UK children will also be targeted by offenders based overseas.’

 The document said that offenders were increasingly adept at ‘targeting’ those who were making themselves vulnerable online, by not having privacy settings, for example.

It added: ‘Offenders will use  various methods to coerce a child into giving their username  and password for a social networking site.

‘Compromising the child’s social networking presence in this way  is used by the offender to get the child to perform sexual acts  or send indecent images online.

‘This then forms the basis for  further threats and incitement to perform increasingly serious  sexual acts.’ Jon Brown, of the NSPCC, said: ‘Sex offenders often prowl the internet looking for victims they can lure into potentially dangerous situations.

‘Children should not reveal their identities, share personal information or send photographs to any strangers they encounter online and must never meet them unless they are going with an adult or someone else they trust.‘

Facebook said it had a ‘zero  tolerance’ to child exploitative content. A spokesman added: ‘We have built complex technical  systems that either block the creation of harmful content, including in private groups, or flag it for quick review by our team of investigations professionals.’