Police boss urges parents to protect children using smartphones from online perverts
A police boss has issued a warning to mums and dads to put parental controls on their children’s smartphones and other devices to protect them from online perverts.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Andy Dunbobbin spoke out after hearing about an incident in which two nine-year-old girls in the north of Wales were filmed dancing naked on a live streaming app.
During a visit to meet North Wales Police’s cybercrime team, the commissioner was also told that sexting by school children was also on the increase, and was particularly concerned that it could fall into the hands of online paedophiles.
Mr Dunbobbin said: “Technology is playing an increasingly vital role in policing so this is a hugely important area. The increase in online crime is a massive challenge for the police, here in North Wales and across the UK.
“The criminal fraternity and online paedophiles are becoming ever more sophisticated in the way they operate and we need to respond accordingly so we can stay one step ahead.
“It is therefore imperative that we invest to ensure we have the most up-to-date technology at our disposal so we can crack down on these online dangers.
“At the same time, educating children incredibly important. It’s important to show all youngsters how to stay safe online and not to give out personal information- and I’m glad to say that North Wales Police are very proactive in this regard.
“But parents also have a vitally important role to play in protecting their own children from the dangers lurking online and the risks of paedophiles targeting youngsters that they can groom.
“Mums and Dads can and should set parental controls that will prevent their children accessing sites with inappropriate sexual material.
“There is a lot of advice and information available one of the most useful sites parents can tap into is the website of the National Cybersecurity Centre, www.ncsc.gov.uk.”
According to Mr Dunbobbin, tackling the growing menace of cyber dangers was one of the key priorities in his new Police and Crime Plan which sets out the blueprint for policing North Wales.
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners have elected him as their deputy lead for police technology and digital and deputy lead for economic and cybercrime, including fraud. Fellow commissioners decided he was the person for the job because of his background working in the technology industry.
Andy Dunbobbin’s message was echoed by Detective Sergeant Carl Taraborelli who said: “The chances are that many parents are blissfully unaware of what their children are using their phones and iPads for whilst they are connected to the internet.
“The sending of inappropriate pictures is a growing trend amongst children, compounded by the use of technology and social media.
“It’s mainly teenagers who do this but in some cases, it can be a lot younger as well.
“Parents need to ask and check what their children are doing online and if they were to visit the National Cybersecurity Centre’s website there is a lot of advice aimed towards parents/guardians to help them, help their children keep safe from online harm.”
The police do not routinely criminalise children for this behaviour and our priority is to educate and steer those children from harm, he said.
“I know from my previous role as a detective sergeant in Child Protection however, that we used to receive regular queries from partner agencies and other officers with mobile phones belonging to children who were sending images to one another, so it is sadly an area of concern.
“The children don’t always appreciate the dangers that presents to them and the subsequent loss of control of those images once that image is out. It can often result in elements of cyber bullying and public embarrassment.
“In the most serious of cases, it can really affect those children and there have been examples where children have really struggled to cope following the effects and outcome of this type of behavior – you have to treat that extremely seriously and make sure that all the relevant support is in place in those types of situations.
“We’ve got a strong cohort of school liaison officers and cyber safety is an important part of their remit. The ideal solution is to stop this problem at source.”
For more information parents can go to the National Cybersecurity Centre’s website, www.ncsc.gov.uk