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Rise in online child sex abuse in Thames Valley during lockdown

Thames Valley Police is cracking down on criminals seeking to use the crisis for their own gain.

Online sexual abuse happens on social networks, online gaming or using mobile phones.

Last month, reports of online child sexual abuse in the Thames Valley were 146% higher than the number of reports received in March 2019. 

Now, the force has issued warning to parents and children of the signs to be on the lookout for.

Detective Chief Inspector Matt Darnell said: "Any child or young person that uses the internet or has a smartphone could be a victim of online sexual abuse and they can be at risk from people they know, as well as from strangers.

"Many young people are incredibly computer literate, have their own smart devices and games consoles and will be using the internet to stay in touch with friends whilst we all stay at home.

But, those they are speaking to online may not be who they say they are and they can leave themselves vulnerable to those who will manipulate and groom children into what they feel is a trusting relationship."

He's encouraging parents and carers to visit the "Thinkuknow" website to check out free online activity packs which are focused on improving online safety.

DCI Darnell added: "I also urge you to have a conversation with your children about privacy settings and ensure that they are secure on the apps and social networks that they are using.

"People who attempt to exploit children on line are very serious criminals, and we want to send a message to them that this type of offending will never be tolerated. 

"These are extraordinary times, but our message remains the same as always - if you attempt to exploit children on the internet, you will be caught, brought to justice and will face severe consequences for your actions."

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