Thames Valley Police and NSPCC join forces to tackle online child abuse: Hidden Harm
The second phase of the Hidden Harm campaign launched on Friday 16th March.
Over the next three weeks Thames Valley Police are working with the NSPCC to raise awareness of online child abuse. The internet is a great place for children and young people to socialise, explore their interests and learn, but the online world is constantly changing and it can feel hard to keep up. Nationally we are seeing a growing number of cases where children and young people have been targeted by adults through popular apps and social media platforms. Online grooming and sexual exploitation are just a couple of examples of crimes that are happening in the heart of our communities, often going undetected or unreported.
That’s why, as part of the Hidden Harm campaign, Thames Valley Police and the NSPCC have joined forces to raise awareness of online child abuse and equip parents and young people with the tools to stay safe online.
What is online child abuse?
Online abuse is any type of abuse that happens on the internet, whether through social networks, online gaming or mobile phones. It can take many forms, from young people being persuaded to share sexually explicit images of themselves, to being threatened, intimidated and harassed via the internet.
Any child or young person that uses the internet or has a smartphone could be a victim of online abuse regardless of their age, gender or background. That’s why it is really important that we all understand the signs to look out for that could indicate a child is being abused.
Signs of online child abuse
The signs aren’t always obvious but there are some you can look out for, for example:
- Spending more time than usual online or on their phone
- Being secretive about what they’re doing or who they’re talking to
- Hiding computer screens or taking phone calls in rooms away from other people
- Engaging less with family and usual friends
- Sudden personality changes or severe mood swings
- Having new things like phones or clothes that they can’t explain
How to keep children safe online
The internet plays a big part in most of our lives so it’s important we all understand the risks associated with being online as well as taking simple steps to help keep children safe:
- Understand the types of social media available to children and young people
- Know what your child is doing online and talk to them about it
- Set up and manage parental controls on all your family’s devices
- Reassure your child that they can talk to you about anything that is worrying them
Suspect it. Report it.
If you believe a child you know could be a victim of online abuse tell someone.
Contact the police on 101, or 999 if you believe they are at immediate risk from harm. Alternatively you can contact the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000 for help and support.
For more information visit https://www.thamesvalley.police.uk/news/campaigns/hidden-harm-campaign/
To host an NSPCC / O2 online safety workshop for parents at your work, community venue or school email email@example.com
Useful resources for children and parents
Thames Valley Police Cadets are recruiting new members.
The scheme aims to provide young people between the ages of 13 and 18, from all parts of society, an opportunity to develop their qualities and skills through a structured programme, and to enhance the relationship between the public and police. It is about including teenagers irrespective of their background, financial circumstances or vulnerability to crime or social exclusion. As dedicated volunteers wanting to make a difference in their local community, the Cadets will take part in neighbourhood policing initiatives and community activities/ events alongside police officers and staff, other volunteers, and partner agencies. The Cadets will be directly supervised by Cadet Leaders who are made up of officers, staff, police support volunteers, PCSOs and members of the Special Constabulary. While Cadets are not eligible for independent patrols and do not have any legal powers, they are able to support tasks such as crime prevention initiatives, message/leaflet delivery, test purchase operations, partnership public safety campaigns, and involvement in non-confrontational local events under supervision. All Cadet activities are risk assessed to comply with Health and Safety and Child Protection policies and procedures. The Cadets and their leaders will meet once a week. The meetings will include guest speakers or input on police related topics as part of an on-going training programme. As well as these weekly meetings, the Cadet units will involve themselves in other activities at weekends and in school holidays, including activity breaks and national competitions. All Thames Valley Police Cadets will be educated and trained in various skills to improve their confidence in dealing with people from all walks of life and general aspects of life. A standard uniform will be issued to the Cadets and this will be worn at all meetings and suitable events. To join, please register an ‘expression of interest’ by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your full name, address, date of birth, contact details, the area of the cadet unit you would like to join, along with a short description of why you are interested in joining.