CEOP: Latest online offender ‘grooming’ tactics revealed

Latest online offender ‘grooming’ tactics revealed – 2008 – Press releases – Media centre – CEOP: “Friday 11 September 2008
Latest online offender ‘grooming’ tactics revealed
UK centre for tackling the sexual abuse of children advises parents to increase vigilance as latest intelligence report is published

Online child sex offenders are using more intimidating tactics to engage with, exploit and abuse children in an increasingly converged technological environment according to the UK’s police agency dedicated to tackling child sex abuse – the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre.

In its latest strategic intelligence dossier, the organisation reports an increase in online offenders using threats such as hacking online profiles and email accounts and using blackmail techniques as a response to an increasingly empowered internet generation who are recognising and reporting online ‘grooming’ behaviour to the police agency.

To date 2.2 million children and young people have seen the Centre’s Thinkuknow education programme and together with public awareness around international law enforcement activity in tracing and arresting internet offenders, this is resulting in offenders changing their tactics to approach and groom children.

The emergence of ‘social sites’ is having an effect on online offending patterns too. Websites which incorporate personal profiles, social networking, instant messaging, games and photo sharing into the same online space (rather than previously distinct services or applications), mean that information gathering on a child and grooming can take place in one online environment.

According to the intelligence document – based on reports submitted to the Centre from young people, adults, domestic and international law enforcement agencies over the course of a 12 month period – instant messaging applications remain the most common area for grooming to be detected (56% of reports) with social networking sites following second (11.4% of reports). As instant messaging applications are increasingly embedded into social networking sites, the Centre expects to see an increase in reports of grooming in these environments.

In addition, with a growing move towards wireless broadband in the home and wi-fi zones in public areas, young people are increasingly accessing the internet via mobile phones and laptops from a variety of locations.

Despite the trends, the CEOP Centre insists that parents should be concerned but not alarmed at these new developments and parents themselves can take a few simple steps to help keep their children safe whilst surfing the internet.

Jim Gamble, Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre;

As parents can’t always keep an eye on what their children are doing on the internet, it is more important than ever that they have an open dialogue with their children about what they are doing online and to give them the skills to navigate safely in the online world as much as the physical world.

Parents can ask their child to show them around the www.thinkuknow.co.uk website and go to the age-appropriate sections or watch one of our films. Parents need to make sure children understand to keep their online friends online, only chat to and webcam with people they know in the real world and most importantly, know how to report to the CEOP Centre if there are concerns about someone’s online behaviour towards their child.

Whilst we can empower children and keep parents up to speed with the latest information on this crime, the online industry also has a role to play. By adopting our unique ‘report abuse’ button into the online environments where children go, reporting directly to CEOP will not only be easier for children but will send out a deterrent message to ‘would-be’ offenders that abuse will not be tolerated in that online space’.

Other key findings from the Centre’s latest intelligence report include:

* An increasing use of peer-to-peer technology being exploited to distribute and share images of child abuse and specifically using this technology for offenders to network with other likeminded individuals and to encourage live-time abuse.
* In terms of the content of child abuse images, the CEOP Centre is seeing an increasing number of non-commercial images in which victims are babies or toddlers. In addition, more images in general are being seized which are sadistic and violent in nature’.
* A general observable trend of more child sex offenders under management travelling abroad to abuse children and / or evade the effective UK offender management regime.

To download a copy of the CEOP Centre’s Strategic Overview 2007-08, visit www.ceop.gov.uk/publications

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