Social media targeted in bid to prevent child exploitation

Parents should restrict their children's freedom online. Picture: Robert Perry

Parents should restrict their children's freedom online. Picture: Robert Perry

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Social media is to be targeted in a campaign to prevent child sexual exploitation.

It aims to provide information for parents and young people about the risks of exploitation and action that can be taken to reduce the chances of it happening, the Scottish Government said.

A ParentLine survey found that half of parents do not set internet controls on devices used by their children, with the most common reason given being that “they didn’t think they needed to”.

Last year, ChildLine in Scotland provided 635 counselling sessions to children and young people worried about child sexual exploitation, the government said.

Education secretary Angela Constance is to visit Police Scotland’s Public Protection Unit ahead of the launch of the campaign on Thursday.

She said: “Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse and some young people may not be aware that they are at risk of harm.

“It is happening to girls and boys in Scotland and can take many forms online and offline – through social media, chat rooms or mobile phones and in everyday life through inappropriate relationships or friendships.

“We want parents and young people to be aware of the risks and how they can get help or advice if they have concerns.

“It can happen to anyone, regardless of age, gender, 
ethnicity and sexuality and those from secure loving homes as well as those more vulnerable.

“All children and young people have the right to be cared for and protected from harm and we all have a role in keeping young people safe.

“This campaign aims to make sure parents and young people are aware of the signs so they can help stop abuse before it happens.”

Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham said: “Tackling and preventing crimes such as human trafficking, rape and child abuse including child sexual exploitation requires a multi-agency approach, working in partnership to identify people who may be vulnerable, gathering intelligence to support investigations and ensuring victims have access to appropriate support.

“Young people increasingly live their lives using new technologies, and we are constantly improving our collective ability to keep young people safe whilst online, whilst targeting those who wish to abuse through the internet.”

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