Criminologists have discovered that paedophiles use a number of techniques online to engage the trust and attention of children as young as 12. According to the findings, it takes as little as three minutes for an online predator to mention sex in a conversation with a child.
Dr Elena Martellozzo, the study’s author, was given ‘unprecedented access’ to the Metropolitan Police’s high tech crime and paedophile unit in order to gather observations from the criminals living there. She found that, alarmingly, the majority of online offenders believed ‘everything is accepted’ on the Internet.
“Children say and do things online that they wouldn’t usually do, including swapping photos of themselves, seeing it as innocent fun rather than something that could later embarrass or hurt them,” she said.
“I’ve discussed online behaviour with hundreds of young people and many do not realise that everything they do online leaves a digital footprint that will always be there.”
Many people believe that a computer screen separates them from normal British decorum, morality and law. The anonymity of the Internet removes inhibitions and causes people to act differently to how they would in a face-to-face situation.
Dr Martellozzo added that parents should take steps to monitor their children’s online activities. Keeping up-to-date with social media allows them to add their children as friends and keep an eye on who they interact with. Warning children about the dangers of speaking with strangers online could potentially prevent them from making a mistake that they come to regret later on in life.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of online sex abuse, you may benefit from visiting a counsellor. Sometimes it is difficult to talk about particularly traumatic or distressing events, especially with friends and family. Professional counsellors are trained to deal with these situations and it is very likely that they will be able to help. To find out more about how counselling can help, please visit Types of Distress.
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