Children as young as 11 being targeted by sexual predators, police warn

Avon and Somerset Constabulary is urging parents to be viligant.   

Avon and Somerset Constabulary is urging parents to be viligant. - Credit: Mark Atherton

Children as young as 11 are being targeted by sexual predators online, Avon and Somerset Constabulary has warned.

The force is urging parents to be vigilant of their children's online activity, following a recent increase in reports of young children falling victim to sexual predators who target them online.

Recent incidents in Avon and Somerset include: 

  • An 11-year old contacted via Instagram and asked to send naked photos of themselves.   

  • A 14-year old contacted via Snapchat and threatened with violence if they did not send images. 

  • An 11-year old contacted via Roblox and threatened that their family would be harmed if they didn’t send sexual video.

  • Two 12-year-olds targeted via Snap Chat, by a predator posing as a classmate, who coerced and threatened them into supplying sexual pictures.

  • A general rise in 14 and 15-year-olds sending images to strangers who contacted them via a range of apps, but often through Instagram.

Detective Chief Inspector Larisa Hunt, lead for Avon and Somerset police’s internet child abuse and child exploitation team Operation Topaz, said: “With the second national lockdown upon us and so much of our lives being moved online, it is more important than ever that we support children to use the internet safely.

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“Over recent years, we have seen a continued increase in online child abuse and exploitation and our fear that this would increase during the pandemic, does, unfortunately, look to be playing out.

“Our focus in Avon and Somerset is engaging with and supporting child victims of abuse and their families, as well as disrupting offenders.

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“We need parents to help too. The recent reports of younger children being targeted should be a wakeup call to all those parents who think their kids are only playing with their friends online.

"Are they? Do you know this for sure? Are they in the room with you whilst they are online?"

Officers are urging parents to talk to children about online safety and to ensure they know who they are playing with.

DCI Hunt added: “Take a look at the websites and resources available and keep the lines of communication open with your children. There is loads of advice and support for parents and young people out there.”

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